What do you do when circumstances beyond your control happen?

Yesterday in my home town we had a big wind storm that knocked out the power for a lot of homes and businesses. This was a relatively short-lived event. Power was out for less than 24 hours for most. However, for some this event was significant and will have a lasting impact.

How would you deal with this power outage in the following scenarios?

  • What if today was your launch date for your new product?
  • What if today was your first weekend being open in your new retail store?
    ….. (a friend owns a local bike shop … yesterday was their first weekend)
  • What if today was the Homecoming Dance?
    ….. (this one was compliments of my daughter)

“What if” can be paralyzing

It is impossible to envision every scenario that “could” happen. Doing so is a waste of time and energy. However, it is prudent to consider scenarios. Just don’t let it paralyze your whole process.

There are worriers out there. They will worry about everything. I know a few of these people. I’m sure you do too. It’s good to have a few of these worriers on your team. They can provide a dose of reality. Sometimes too much reality.

Reality happens and intrudes every day

Today we had a power outage in my part of the city. There was a shooting at LAX. A major bridge from Seattle was shut down by high winds.

Things happen every day. Some are expected and many are unexpected. Some are good and some are very bad. Whether we are ready or not we need to deal with these unexpected circumstances.

Could people have planned for these unexpected events that happened today?

Of course, the answer is yes. But at what cost?

In the case of a shooting in an airport there have been numerous scenarios worked out considering this and countless nuances. We expect this and pay a premium for it with our government.

In the case of the power going out that’s a tougher scenario to predict. In the case of the bridge being shut down it didn’t prevent getting to the other side… it just took a longer way around and took more time.

In your business life

At Microsoft we did something called Rude Q&A for press releases and product launches. Where we tried to envision the questions press and analysts would ask. We also sought to define use cases and solution scenarios to help customers and partner understand the value of the products.

In your personal life

We have to deal with unexpected situations all the time. Traffic accidents cause delays, people don’t do what they promised, people show up late or flat out forgot. It happens.

How we deal with these unexpected situations is one of the things that define us. How we Deal with the Unexpected is used by others to gauge whether they want to work with us, partner with us and generally work with or otherwise hang out with us.

Don’t let “What If” paralyze you

Plan for contingencies, think about alternate scenarios, then get started and execute on your plans. Once you get started there may be no turning back, but at least you are moving.

Will every situation work out exactly like you envisioned them to? Of course not.

However, if you’ve done some contingency planning you will be able to “roll with the punches” and adapt on the fly.

How have you “rolled with the punches?”

Have you ever had a plan go exactly as you have envisioned? If yes, great. How much pre-planning did you do? Did you just happen to envision every possible scenario?

Have you ever had a plan go sideways and force you to adapt on the fly? How did you adapt? What did you need to do to make those quick adjustments. Was the end result the same as you had planned? Or perhaps, was it better?

Share your successes and yes… your failures in the comments. Help others learn from your efforts. Together we can all grow together. Together we can learn how to Deal with the Unexpected.