Planning Failure Files
Problem: It’s 1902 and the city of Hanoi is plagued by rats. Proposed Solution: Eliminate the pesky rodents by encouraging entrepreneurialism. Pay a bounty to citizens for each rat they kill.
Sounds pretty straightforward. What could go possibly go wrong?
The linked article from Atlas Obscura details what did go wrong and why. (No spoilers here!) It’s a fascinating, real life example of that old saying: “Foolproof systems seldom take into account the ingenuity of fools.” I encourage you to read it.
While the events that the article chronicles took place overseas more than a century ago, they offer lessons that are still relevant here, today. For instance, no planning process is truly complete unless it includes a means of monitoring and analyzing its results. Planning is a continuous process, not the finite, put-the-plan-in-a-drawer task seen in so many companies. All too often I’ve worked with firms that conduct annual strategic planning “exercises,” each one nearly identical to that of the previous year. Completing the plans is the primary objective. Implementing recommendations and measuring results? Those steps, many times, just aren’t part of the plan.
Another lesson to consider is that of having (at least) a basic understanding of expected outcomes. Know what the key metrics should be. Does a particular number, ratio, or accounting look right? Include cross checks in your spreadsheets. Look for red flags in your accounting reports. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. To do otherwise is to risk, figuratively speaking, being overrun by rats.
Instead of disappearing, the pesky rodents proliferated.
Digital Artist + Marketer | Business Consultant | Startups + Small Businesses.
Specialties – Web Design | Digital Marketing | E-Commerce | Business Plan and Financial Modelling
Hans van Putten owner of 40parkLane,llc ran operations of his food manufacturing company for 17+ years building the Carolyn’s Handmade brand under the umbrella of 40ParkLane,llc.
After the successful sale of the food business, he took advantage of the years of strategic planning, operations management, web design, digital marketing and photography experience , to help startups, small businesses and home businesses and has been involved in a number of start-up ventures since.
Prior to founding 40parkLane,llc Hans worked for the Gillette Company for 10 years in various financial roles of increasingly bigger responsibility, leaving as Director of Business Planning for The International Group at Gillette HQ, Boston. Hans has an MBA (Marketing & International Business) from Aston University, and a BA in Business Administration from IHBO de Maere.