Nothing ever goes as planned. Sure, there is the rare occasion when you may schedule a short meeting, type out a quick agenda and manage to stick to it, wrapping up the meeting on time, walking away with your list of action items. Goal accomplished. But, I think we would all agree, those instances are rare.
Probably our first example of plans going awry happened somewhere between toddlerhood and kindergarten. But as we entered adulthood, we still hadn’t learned our lessons. I remember uttering something like “I plan to graduate from college, get married, have two kids, get my master’s and secure a high-profile creative position by the time I’m 30.” I got my college diploma before I was 30, but other than that the plan took on a life of its own. That’s not to say I didn’t accomplish important goals–I did. But over time, what became important changed. And naturally, albeit with some resistance at times, I adjusted.
What was important, however, was that I had a plan. One that I could consider on a daily basis, assess against my current status, and tweak to accommodate new goals and interests, deleting those that had become obsolete or unimportant. Had I not had a plan at all, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t be where I am today.
This same logic applies as well to our professional lives. Over and over again, GCs tell me one thing they love about their jobs is that every day brings a new learning experience–and no one day was like the one before. While interviewing Madeleine Johnson, GC of Southwest Airlines, for this month’s Profile, (see “Blue Skies,” p. 56), she said about her position, “It is not for someone who likes everything planned out. You have to go with the flow, be flexible, react quickly and be decisive.” Most GCs feel that way about their jobs.
But many GCs also know the value of having a plan, especially one designed to protect the corporate image when a crisis hits. This issue’s Feature discusses best practices for crisis preparedness. From building the right team to deal with a crisis when it hits to hiring professionals to help manage the situation to appropriately handling the media, having a pre-existing plan is the best defense against a PR and legal disaster. As one GC source points out, a plan won’t prepare you for all the specific challenges each crisis presents, but it will help you to effectively manage them. “You have to be nimble and adjust quickly,” he advises.