Anatomy of a Bad Plan*

So I’ve been thinking, what makes people do silly things?  I’m not talking about the little lapses in judgement that we all make from time to time.  I’m thinking about the plans I hear about here and there that have me thinking:  “Chances are good this won’t end well.”**  I mean, you hope it will end well for the planner’s sake, but it probably won’t.

So, here’s some brainstorms I came up with of common feature of bad plans.  This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, so if you think of one, please share in the comments.  Also, just because your own personal clever plan has traits that are or aren’t on this list, doesn’t make your plan bad or good.  We’re just brainstorming here.

Here’s an example of a generic plan that would make me uneasy:

  1. Step 1:  Concoct cunning scheme.
  2. Step 2:  Get someone to help me.
  3. Step 3:  Invest life savings.
  4. Step 4:  ????
  5. Step 5: Profit!

 And, in reverse order:

  1. There seems to be lack of exit strategy.  “Exit strategy” is a snazzy term for “plan of escape.”  By the way, “Make heaping piles of money to the acclaim of all!” is insufficiently detailed to be a valid exit strategy. 
  2. There’s a gap in the process. Do you see step four above?  There should be something there.  It would also help if it were logically consistent.
  3. Betting everything on one idea could be considered “imprudent”.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to commit all of my anything to one venture.
  4. Partnerships tend to end in tears and recrimination.  If there’s one thing I learned about group work at university, it’s that someone always ends up irritated that they’re doing all the work and everyone else is slacking off.  Even if they’re really one of the slackers.  Partnerships also tend to make an uglier exit strategy.
  5. A certain overconfidence and lack of clarity in the cunning scheme.  Odds are, if you’ve had a brainwave, lot’s of other people have had a similar idea – and they didn’t do it!  It would be wise to explore why that is.

*Not a financial plan, mind you.  Just a plain old bad plan.

**No, it’s not someone you know.  Nor is it you.  Don’t get huffy, I was listening to the talk radio when I had this idea, so it’s not some passive-aggressive manipulation.

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