Making a Plan... and Trashing It

I like plans. But then, most people do. They're kind of comforting. 

They can improve efficiency, and give you a sense of direction and purpose. Like a guide leading you through your project, or working day. 

But plans can also be dangerous.

They can constrain you, stop you being flexible and responding to developments.

I had a big event this week, talking to a group of civil servants in London about tricks for dealing with pressure. 

I'd planned the day, in my usual way. And all was going smoothly. 

Until one of the group asked about ways to keep calm when you're ambushed by a stressful situation.

I suggested a few that have always worked for me - falling back on experience, maintaining your professionalism, promising yourself a treat when the day is done. 

Then someone else joined in with a suggestion, then another person, and another...

And they were such good insights, all from fascinating experiences, that I started listing them on the flipchart. 

I'd only planned for a few minutes on the issue. And wondered whether to curtail the discussion... but decided not to, as the whole group were so engaged with it.

It meant I had to junk a couple of other elements of my lovingly constructed course to finish on time. 

And on the train home, I wondered if that was the right thing to do. 

On balance, I think yes. For a couple of reasons - 

Firstly, any course always works better as a dialogue. All of us discussing and exploring together, rather than just me waffling. 

But secondly, and most importantly - 

Whenever I run a course, I always say at the start, This is your day, not mine. Anything you want to spend more time on, if it's important to you, then we will. 

It's just a version of the old saying about the customer being king. And comes down to this - 

If you're in a service industry, provide the service that people want. 

Even if it requires courage, and flexibility, and means junking that plan which you so carefully put together.