Certain things require a plan B, ex: rescue missions, wars, campaigning for an election, getting out of personal financial debt, science experiments etc. But i’m not convinced that startups can adequately plan for a “B” scenario.
To be clear, I think having “tactical” plan B’s are important but having “strategic” plan B’s are a serious waste of time. If you don’t understand the difference between strategy and tactics, read about it here. The difference is, you can’t adequately plan for a B scenario when it comes to the big picture but you can and should have a plan B for the path that gets you to your end point. Here’s what I think happens when you give yourself a strategic plan B…
Plan B gives you an excuse not to commit to your decision because you give yourself a way out.
Plan B will get you to rabbit-hole yourself into a plan C, D, E, F… so you end up focusing on planning for failures instead of focusing on whittling away at plan A until you break through it.
Plan B could lead to you being impatient and not giving plan A a real shot at being successful.
Plan B gives you the illusion of being fail-safe and bulletproof.
Plan B contaminates and curdles your mission and it clouds your judgement because you become unsure as to where you want your company to end up.
Plan B puts a fork in the road and confuses the journey.
Plan B begs the question “what and who are we fighting for?”
If your big picture needs to be rethought, do it when you can answer for all the variables in play. and when you KNOW plan A just isn’t going to work. Strategically planning for an A and a B scenario all at once is counterintuitive.
Let’s all get better at cleaning up the mess we create for others who didn’t ask for it. I find that doing small things can psychologically train you to get better at becoming more accountable.
Start by making up your bed in the morning after you wake up. No seriously… try it for a few weeks and you will flip a switch in your brain that says “This is my bed, I slept in this bed, I made this bed messy and I will fix my bed up because no one else is obligated to make my bed for me.”
It’s an action that sets you up for accountability for the rest of the day. I know it probably sounds ridiculous, but it works for me. Who knew that my mom’s advice in my formative years would have such a big impact? “BOBBY GET BACK HERE AND MAKE UP YOUR DAMN BED!”
P.S. If your kids are old enough to make their own beds (7-8yrs) you should really get them into the habit of cleaning up their mess instead of doing it for them. They’ll be better for it.
We’d have fewer wars, fewer lives lost, fewer excuses to invade neighboring countries if we just leveled the playing field and let everyone have nuclear weapons.
Lets get past the notion that the world would be better off if no one had nuclear weapons. It would be safer, but it’s also impossible. The nuclear powers of today will not relinquish their nuclear arsenal so that path is a no-go.
What are we left with? We are left with a serious imbalance in power where a few nuclear-nations impose their ideals and agendas on nations who feel threatened and shortchanged. The surest way to incentivize the “evil-doers” (thanks Bush) to pursue nuclear capabilities is by denying them the ability to do so.
I have a lot of faith that the nations of the world will not meet an apocalyptic fate by engaging in nuclear war. Why? Because there’s no upside. If we engage in nuclear war, the side that wins that war won’t have much left to rule over. The world markets are too interconnected and too dependent on each other for nuclear war on any continent in any nation to make sense. No one will want to deal with the domino effect mess of hunger, crashed global markets, anarchy, radioactive wasteland, millions of corpses and everything else that ensues after a nuclear war.
I think of India and Pakistan. Both nations are nuclear powers and the neighbors have been at war for decades over a few pieces of land and religious differences. Thousands of lives have been lost in that region but neither country would exercise their nuclear position on each other. During the cold war U.S.A and U.S.S.R met the same fate, they knew that the disaster that would ensue in the aftermath of a nuclear war would overshadow their need to impose their will on the other side.
You could argue that maniacal leaders are the reason why this motion makes no sense. I’d argue that the craziest of them all, Kim Jong Il gave North Korea its place among other global nuclear powers and as proven he only did so defensively. Regardless of the countless threats N.K. has imposed on South Korea, they’ve never exercised their threats. In much the same way, I don’t believe Ahmedinejad of Iran would actually follow through with his threat on Israel. It would result in Iran’s downfall within hours if not minutes of a nuclear launch and destabilize the entire region. Where’s the upside? I don’t see it.
It is impossible to go to nuclear war without being dramatically affected yourself. It’s kind of like a bee who stings you, it hurts like hell but the bee dies anyway. If every nation were a nuclear-power every leader would be too scared to push the button.
I am reminded of a great Einstein quote “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
Obama is going to win this Presidency, make no mistake about it.
While the entire conservative side is shaken up and energized by Romney’s double-digit surge in ratings in the past week, they underestimate how fickle voters actually are and how quickly they purge debates from their brains to give way to Desperate Housewives.
Romney and Obama will square off in three total debates. Romney won the first one… but by the time we get to debate number three, a vast majority of the swing voters won’t remember the first debate. They’ll remember the last debate. More importantly, they’ll remember the last few minutes of the last debate. Whoever wins the third debate will win the presidency.
**Here’s Obama’s advantage… **
He lost the first debate, but we’re all going to forget about that next week when he wins the second debate. He will win the second debate because it is a town-hall. Romney sucks at town-hall debates (go watch him in the GOP debates) but more importantly, Obama consistently outperforms opponents in town-halls. He is more personable, more like-able, more human than Romney.
The third debate focuses on foreign policy. Romney will surely talk down to Obama’s kowtowing in the Middle East and his weak position on defending Israel. Though Iran is a nuclear threat, they aren’t a nuclear power yet. If they were a nuclear power, Obama might have had a tougher time arguing in favor of his foreign policy. There’s no point in speculating so lets just deal with what we know. Obama’s golden nuggets are: his administration took down Bin Laden and his administration was part (albeit a small part) of the Arab Spring. Both points will resonate deeply with the voters at home and frankly if they don’t resonate with you, you might be borderline unpatriotic (just sayin').
So, we can have philosophical stances on why we are right or wrong, or why one guy deserves to be president or not but it really doesn’t matter because no one in this country really gives a shit.
Obama will win the third debate and that’s all the swing voters are going to remember. I’d wager that this election is signed, sealed and delivered to Obama. Wanna play me for $100?
When he took his 50,000 person army on a 12 year march across the continent to conquer lands unknown and unseen by the Greeks, he marched with them.
When they braved the 20,000 foot climb of the Hindu Kush mountains during winter, to march into India, he braved the cold with his soldiers. They marched in a single file that stretched ten miles long on the steep edges of the mountain. Any other man might have turned back, but not him. He showed them it was possible with his sheer will to march ahead one step at a time.
When he asked his infantry to charge ahead against the formidable elephants in the Indian armies, he fearlessly led the charge from the front and struck the elephants first.
He conquered parts of western India, won a glorious battle against the Raja’s vast armies, lost thousands of soldiers in the battle then gave India back to the Raja… all because he was impressed with the courage of the soldiers he faught against. What other man would do that?
When he asked his army to march back to Persia from India, he braved the dessert with them in the face of almost certain death. He lost over a third of his soldiers on the way but he didn’t shield himself… he just showed them that they could do it by leading from the front.
He spread Greek ideas and Aristotelian philosophies with people who weren’t his own… people that his soldiers thought were ignorant barbarians. He single handedly kicked off the beautiful and intellectual Hellenistic era because he knew a future of Persians, Egyptians and Greeks who freely shared ideals and culture was a richer one than one with Greeks confined to their own lands.
His soldiers first came to love him and be loyal supporters of his eastern conquest. Then they came to despise him for his liberal views toward the Persians. They hated him even more when he took a Persian bride. Then they hated him some more when Alexander asked them to do the same. They surely despised him because he kept them marching from country-to-country and kept them fighting from battle-to-battle for over a decade. But he did it with them, by their side, always first and always fearlessly willing.
Then he died at the young age of 32.
He wasn’t perfect but I admire this man because he led from the front, asked his men to do the impossible and never asked them to do anything he didn’t willingly do first. Two millennia later, we’re talking about the great man who was once just a man with godly ambition and the will to see his journey through.
One of the projects I took on in 2010 was to re-imagine the practitioner portals in the field of Oncology. It was perhaps one of the more difficult things I have worked on.
The idea was to re-think the way doctors spend their 2 minutes (yes its that short of a time span) between patients to get a full health overview before walking into the room.
What practitioners use today is abysmal. Take a bit of yahoo’s homepage from 2001, add some of the worse parts of myspace and that’s what the industry is relegated to.
Two years after my re-thinking of the portal, a cancer survivor by the name of Gannon Burgett took to writing about the redesign. What he did was special and is easily my proudest moment as a designer. This is why designers fall in love with their trade, they get to rethink industries and literally change lives. Here’s what Gannon had to say…
“It would truly change how patients look at the treatments. There would be fewer questions from week to week; there would be less confusion in the numbers; and there would be more relief, knowing that things are much more organized. It’s nothing more than complex data hidden behind a gorgeous façade, but it’s a façade that can truly change the way practitioners and patients approach the beast we call cancer.”
“Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success… and is the key to being regarded honorably.”
If you are in the military or in business It’s important to understand the difference between strategy and tactics. They are often misused and/or misinterpreted by people in a work setting.
Millennia ago, the Greeks used the words “Strategos” or “Taktika” for very specific military needs.
In grecian armies, like that of the Spartans or the Athenians, generals would often march their forces to the battle ground. When possible the general would quickly send horsemen to the high ground to get a “fly over” view of enemy forces to gauge their numbers, their arsenal (archers, cavalry, chariots) and their formations. The horsemen would take in as much information as possible to help device a strategy, then quickly ride back downhill to the general to let him know what the army was up against.
The general then mapped out a strategy that might have answered questions like, should we attack and weaken their left flank before marching down center-field? Should we leave center-field open and focus our attention on the enemy’s flanks? Should we recede and wait for them to come to us? Should we negotiate for peace since they have a larger force?
To implement the strategy, the general would device clear and specific tactics and put commanders in place to enforce them. Ex: We’re going to attack their left flank with cavalry, our legions will march down the center of the battlefield to break up the enemy’s forces, our archers will cover our right flank from a few hundred yards away and decimate a large portion of the enemy’s troops while our legions march forward.
See the difference? A strategy is a grand plan, a tactic is a specific measure implemented to push the grand plan forward.
You can’t have strategy without tactics… if you do it’s called dreaming. You can’t have tactics without strategy… if you do it’s called chaos.
It’s easy to fly over and get a bird’s eye view view of what we’re up against only to forget to land and kill something. Now stop dreaming and go kill something.
Two hundred and thirty some years ago, America was a startup. The founding fathers weren’t past statesmen, had no professional military training and with the exception of a few, they were farmers and blacksmiths in trade. What they lacked in real world experience, they made up for in passion and a yearning for something better than a monarchy.
At the writing of the Declaration of Independence, now considered one of the most important documents ever conceived in human history, Thomas Jefferson didn’t attempt to do much more than lay out in his personal beliefs of how a great country should work. He didn’t so much as consult Congress when he wrote it (though congress did edit it slightly later on.) He shot from the gut and from the heart and painted a future with ideas that weren’t just disruptive for the age, but treasonous to the bureaucracy set by the English monarchy.
Heck, when he was assigned to lead the fight against the British army, the grandest and most funded army at the time, general George Washington had no real battle experience. Washington took the fight to the British with no money (the U.S. had no real credit at the time), improvised weapons made by his soldiers, and an army riddled with small pox. He had all that going against him, yet these farmers and blacksmiths toiled fearlessly and quickly brought the British empire to its knees on the American continent.
It’s quite amazing, these founding fathers were setting up one of the most important governmental structures and all the while they were literally winging it. Their closest ally, the French, were under the rule of their dictator, Napoleon **, and everything the Americans knew about governments were grounded in the British monarchy. A democratic government was a new concept. They had no one to guide them or advise them. All they had was their vision and their conviction to stand by it.
Remember that when you think about your startup. Stand by what you believe in, do what’s right and push forward even when the times get tougher than you anticipated. It’s what winners do.
** With the understanding that Napoleon came into power a decade or so after the revolutionary war. But things moved slowly back then and a decade wasn’t a long enough time for a lot to happen. When Napoleon came into power in 1799, the U.S. was still trying to figure out its credit, its navy, its state governance and its economy.
Something like this is long overdue. Seed and Series A capital investments shouldn’t be complicated and can be templatized. The process is purposely bloated by law firms trying to meet their quarterly numbers. No company should raise $1M and then immediately give up 4-8% of their raise to a law firm before ever making payroll.
Investment firms and VCs should be furious with this process. The pain doesn’t stop at the entrepreneur… It’s the VC’s money going down the drain.
I think the right thing to do is to have a standardized set of open documents that aren’t riddled in legalese. Set up an investment consortium with law firms and investors that are respected to oversee the documents. Keep the document short and simple to understand. The expectation should be that early stage investments would use those documents to fulfill an investment. If investment firms don’t want to use the open docs, they should separately foot the bill to get a custom set of documents done by a law firm of their choice and additionally foot the bill for the startup’s counsel to review the documents.
The only people who benefit from a closed and bloated process are law firms. Not the VC and not the entrepreneur.