That is one piece of advice I received from a co-worker many years ago and it has served me well. In fact, having a plan C, D, E and F too is often something that has saved the day for me.
I admit this wasn’t a lesson I learned easily, but rather it was one where I had to feel the pain a couple of times by encountering situations where I didn’t have a plan B and found myself up the proverbial creek. On those occasions that little voice in my head was screaming, “WHAT, NO PLAN B? WHAT HAPPENED TO PLAN B? HOW CAN YOU NOT HAVE A PLAN B?”
This topic has been top of mind because this legislative session has felt like there can’t be enough versions of The Plan to accomplish our goals, even though we had a relatively simple legislative agenda for this short legislative session. Through it all, we continue to advocate on behalf of our members.
This week our lobbyist gave his best, old college try efforts akin to those of a great quarterback in working with various legislators, clearing the way for some and blocking others; and his cajoling of committee chairs like sideline refs to take up our cause, I envisioned him with an armload of our bills running down that long narrow hallway you know from your childhood bad dreams, lined on both sides with huge doors that quickly opened but then slammed shut. Our plans A, B, C, D…simply falling away.
Puzzled, I asked, “So what is the issue? Why is this so hard this year?” He assured me the “issue” wasn’t our issue … everyone basically agreed our issue was easy. The “issue” had everything to do with things we had nothing to do with. There are other’s motives, multiple agendas, personality and political differences, not enough time, not enough pain to make it rise to priority level, etc.
“Aha,” I thought, “this is what members find so frustrating when asked to enter the political arena in legislative and regulatory issues.” As echoes of members’ questions rang in my ears, “Why can’t they just fix it? How did they not realize what that provision would do? Whose knucklehead idea was that!?” I realized, this process, that we often have no control over, is what is so hard to explain when we talk about advocacy. Success in advocacy takes time, it takes resilience, it takes tenaciousness, and it takes a lot of plan B’s.
So as I review the legislative ‘wins’ and ‘losses’ from this session to date; in the ‘win’ column, I can count 1) stopping the sales tax on services bill before it was a full blown threat and 2) the opportunity to be part of the discussion on tax policy in the interim; and 3) I’m hoping the notary requirement for business personal property tax exemptions still goes through. In the ‘maybe’ category, there is still hope for the peer review provisions and CPE audit changes and in ‘losses’ we’ll list clarifying the use of the enforcement fund.
However, I know in our postgame analysis in March, we will focus on how far we moved the ball on each issue and what play we will use next to keep it moving down the field. We have a lot of plays left. And finally, we’ll figure out what our next plan is to do what we need to do to provide value to our members. We’ll talk about all of the what if’s, who care’s, who carries the ball, who fakes right and we will have a plan A, a plan B, a plan C and so on, because that is how you play the game. You prepare, you go out there with a plan and a goal and you give it your best. If you win, you celebrate. If you lose, you regroup, learn from your mistakes, you get better, and you go back out there!
So how do you approach plan B’s in your strategy sessions? Do you intentionally not develop a plan B so you have to focus and only do plan A? Or, do you plan for potential failures and develop the rest of the alphabet of plans? None of us knows what might happen, but we can all plan as if we do and sometimes we might actually find we were right.