Planning: What I Learned in the Twelfth-Grade

Planning is not all it is cracked up to be—it never was—but it is a whole lot better than the alternative; not planning.

A lot of plans fail.  Too many people equate planning to golfing; after all, how difficult can planning be?  Apparently, judging from the results of failed plans, pretty difficult.  There are planners, and then there are real planners.  Just like there are golfers and real golfers.  Those planners in the first group are the ones, who on occasion, have to throw something on paper and call it a plan.

Planning can get you in trouble.  An example?  Sure.  Twelfth grade—Operation Red Belt.  My friend, now an FBI agent, was looking for a way to meet a really cute girl in the eleventh grade.  The first time he saw her she was wearing a red belt—hence the name of the op.

Since Al Gore had yet to invent the internet, the only way to learn anything about her was to stalk her, a good skill for him to learn considering his career choice.  we put together a written plan.  Scrawled across the top of the paper were the words ‘Operation Red Belt.’  We even outlined a series of questions he should ask to prepare him should he ever get a chance to talk to her.

One night we followed her home from a basketball game, killing the lights in his car so we wouldn’t be spotted.  We learned she lived at the end of the street.  After she went indoors, rather than turning around in her drive, we proceeded down the dirt road that led past the home figuring we would execute a three-point-turn and make our escape.

Unaware of the culvert on the narrow and muddy dirt road, we only managed to skillfully execute points one and two of the required three points in the turn.  The passenger’s rear wheel was spinning wildly in the culvert.  Right about the same time the sky opened up and it began to pour.

In an age without cell phones, the great planners were hopelessly marooned. The only house on the street with its lights on was Red Belt’s.  Realizing we had no choice, we walked through the mud and rang the doorbell, hoping we would be allowed to use the phone to call his parents.

He father answered the bell and invited us in.  Plans do not always work the way they are designed to work and, the consequences of bad planning are a lot worse in business than they were in the twelfth grade.

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