plans are nothing; planning is everything.

Looking back through some old blog posts, I came across the one entitled “to lead or be led”, which was a reflection on the leadership style of Dwight D. Eisenhower while he was the PotUS.  In the process, I got distracted by the possibilities of the internet and started looking up quotes by my man Dwight.  The title of this blog is one that I found.

This feels like something that I believe strongly.  To plan like crazy, so you can be ready to throw the plan away.  This quote from my buddy Dwight was from his army days, talking about the fact that good offensive tactics in the army relied on planning like crazy, then letting the plan go if necessary.  This allowed individual commanders to make adjustments as the situation changed.

This is similar to a quote by Bill Hybels from the Gurus of Tech 2012 event that just happened.  “Build flexibility into your capability.”

When getting ready for an event, I try like crazy to know everything possible.  From there I try to imagine all the possible things that could happen and try to come up with Plan B’s and Plan C’s.  I have learned that things will change.

I approach every service like I can know only a part of what is going to happen.  I try to know that part like the back of my hand, so that I can be prepared for what I can’t know.  In a weekend service scenario, we are doing something completely different each week, which means we haven’t seen it, and really don’t have a clue if it is going to work.

Every other year, Willow does a conference in Germany.  It is tons of work, but an amazing time.  We take a crew from Willow Creek and meet up with a crew of German volunteers to walk into an arena and build everything up from scratch.  One year, for a particular session, we had something like 6 microphones fail in the span of 10 minutes.  Since one of our values is trying to minimize distraction, this was not a good thing.  Especially in front of 8000 people.

If I could boil it all down, we had abandoned a plan B.  In the US, we always have a wired handheld in the front row in case something happens to whatever mic is being used.  In Germany, we had one mic ready for that purpose in this particular session, but we didn’t take into account the translator.  We had used the second mic channel for another speaker earlier in that session.  The problem is that any time an American gets up on stage, we have someone translating it into German and at the last minute, an American decided to jump up on stage, requiring us to have 2 handheld mics.

What followed would have to be the worst production moment of my life this far.  I wanted to crawl into a hole.

Going back to the two quotes from above, I had locked myself into my plan.  I had plenty of capability, but I had thrown flexibility out the window.  The cue sheet had become my rule.

Part of knowing when to throw a plan away, or when to be flexible, requires experience, and learning from those experiences.  It also comes from having a plan in the first place, to know when it is time to change it.

Are you planning like crazy?  Are you learning from your experiences?  Are you ready to improvise when the time comes?

photo by: PhillipC