A plan against planning

I was most recently part of an organized gaming match among thirty-two players. Two days before, a meeting was called to carefully lay out which directions groups would go, and how everything would be built, stacked, and executed. Almost down to dotting the little ‘i’.

As you, the reader would know, this plan went completely out the window as soon as virtual feet hit the virtual pavement. My team ‘won’, but the only plan that followed was common sense among people who knew what to do.

Weddings and other big events work in similar ways with similar dynamics. Plans only serve to answer questions of how things should be done if one does not know how.

These are things that happen in the course of execution like where the groom and bride should stand, or where the place settings on the table should go.

It is only by natural circumstance that the groom doesn’t completely run in circles while walking down the isle (although I presume that some have).

Plans are in essence part-way of being a hindrance. Nothing ever really goes to plan, and some things should never be planned (unless they are so obscure of an idea that they should be — such as building blueprints for instance).

The best that one can do with a plan of any sort is to control chaos. Almost always however, it is better to just allow people to train people to react, in a boolean logic sort of way.

A nice example of this is in a concert. A concert is a collection of people working all at once to play out a common piece of music. It is a very refined form of chaos. Players are given sheet music, and told what to play, how to play it, and when to play it by a conductor.

A concert is a great form of how planning should work; the players are (usually) not told how their breathing should work, and what the best position for their fingers are. Quite simply, they know all the little things, and how to adjust their actions to fit in with the big picture.

This type of training falls out of the scope of any general plan, but these people are simply better known as folks that can ‘do it on the spot’, either because they have prior training, or instinctively know how something should be done properly.

People who can adapt and adjust quickly to align themselves with the plan (“play some sheet music”, “defeat the other team”) are the ones that make any plan successful. Those who try to plan excessively instead of allowing people to adapt on the spot risk diluting the original plan (the more important message).

The more important thing is that it risks alienating the people in the plan, who may feel that they know how to, for instance, hold a football while catching a pass. The prime message of the plan is lost.

Thus a complicated plan is never a solution to a complicated problem. Practice helps greatly, but is no substitute for having people around with great sense of what they already need to do, and how to react when the time is right.

If you can’t find people that can adapt, it is probably better to just train them, or toss them, but it should never be okay to treat them as programmable robots. It is both a waste of your time, and theirs.


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