Changing Plans

As a CFO I am all about plans, projections, budgets, and forecasts.  The most successful companies meticulously strategize, put their strategy into place, and determine what action steps are necessary to achieve their plans.  A time may come, however, when plans must be changed in order to assure success or sometimes even survival.

In 1997, Jon Krakauer authored a book entitled Into Thin Air, in which he chronicled the actual 1996 expedition of him and several other climbers with the goal of reaching the peak of the world’s highest mountain, Mt. Everest.  Several climbers (including highly respected climbers and guides) lost their lives in the expedition.  In trying to sort out all of the possible reasons for the tragedy, Krakauer reveals that “predetermined turn-around times were egregiously ignored (Krakauer, p. 285).”  In other words, the expert guides had set certain times as guidelines that meant wherever the climbers were on the mountain at those predetermined times, they were to turn around and descend ( reasons for this guideline are beyond the scope of this article ) even though they had not reached their goal of ascending to the peak.  The predetermined times were ignored and the result were the lost lives of many people.  The goal of getting to the top should have been abandoned.

The critical question becomes, when should plans be changed?  I believe the key to answering this question correctly needs to be in the plan.  Every plan should contain within it key metrics, measurements, and milestones that are compared to reality at regular intervals so progress can be determined or, in some cases, plans abandoned to ensure survival.  The Everest expedition had a plan but a key measurement was dismissed.  Notice again what Krakauer said, “Predetermined turn-around times were egregiously ignored (Krakauer, p. 285).”

Your company should have a well thought out plan, with metrics and timetables.  Measure actual progress with the plan at regular intervals, and adjust accordingly in a timely manner.

*Krakauer, Jon, (1997), Into Thin Air

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