Our Changing Alphabet Plans – Plan A, Plan B or even Plan Z

Often Plan B in our life may be superior to our Plan A.

Over the past few weeks I was involved in several critical situations in the lives of others caused by mostly unforeseen factors. Some of these situations were of an organisational nature where the viability of the business was threatened by disruptive elements. Some of the other situations were family based where the future of the family is threatened. It is certainly a common occurrence for most of us to face some form of crisis situation on a regular basis.

The expression ‘alphabet plans’ is designed to capture the important principle of learning to adapt in the face of the changing environment. An inability to adapt from Plan A to Plan B and sometimes move down the alphabet of plans is not always a welcome concept, yet those of us who desire the ability to be good leaders need to embrace this as soon as possible. The alternative is to face a constant series of unnecessary disappointments and failures that is mainly caused by our stubbornness and lack of adaptation in the face of obstacles to our Plan A’s.

No excuse for weakness

The universal principle of adaptation should not be seen as justification for flinching and baulking at every problem or challenge we come across. On the contrary, adaptation resilience is often about humility and common sense. It embraces the principle of recognising that the situation has changed significantly and therefore threatens to destroy our forward movement if we do not act proactively.

Plan B becomes better than Plan A

In the one example mentioned above, the organisation involved had invested a great deal of time and funds in an effort to create positive movement in the face of a series of disruptive and unforeseen challenges. When another more serious challenge arrived on the scene, it became clear that Plan A was running into a wall. A keen feeling of disappointment seemed to cascade through the leadership of the organisation. Experience in the past compelled those of us involved to adapt to the new situation and take some pro-active steps. Within a few days Plan A evolved into Plan B and the organisation seems to be well on track. You can feel the difference! A passion has once again surfaced that bodes well for the future of the organisation.

The Law of Resistance

A major factor in our leadership journey is the understanding that all movement is accompanied by resistance of some kind or other.

We need to learn to face the universal truth that resistance to movement is not a ‘perhaps’ factor, but a universal law that takes many different kinds of forms. It is interesting how easily we may accept opposition in some of our activities and yet how we resent is in those that may count the most! As that strange breed called golfers know full well, any golfer that thinks he can play hole after hole without facing challenges is probably as rare as chicken teeth. In fact the main reason that golfers love the game is because of the pleasure of overcoming resistance!

It is inspirational to be in the presence of leaders who face resistances every day with confidence in their adaptation resilience. To them life is full of daily Plan A’s slipping into more viable Plan B’s.

Keys to adaptation resilience

An important key to embracing adaptation resilience is to understand the nature of leadership confidence to move people and situations around us. Confidence is not based just on the clarity of our Plan A’s but in our trust in processes that empower us to move obstacles and barriers to potential around us. If our confidence is based on our tangible goals and passions rather than on our mastery of processes to achieve movement of obstacles in our way, then we are bound for disappointments that may get us down.

You will recall the previous world rugby cup match between the Springboks and Australia a few years ago when South Africa lost. According to knowledgeable commentators and millions watching, the Springboks dominated the game but could not score the necessary winning points. Afterwards the new Springbok rugby coach appointed after the world cup mentioned that the Springboks were not able to adapt to the situation. Plan A was not working.

What do we want?

When our desires and ambitions are based on values that are universally sound and based on a higher inspired standard than our own small world, then we will find a way to embrace Plan B in impossible situations. Even if we sometimes have to work hard and right down to Plan Z (and some of us seem to travel that journey) then we will eventually find that our Plan A was really a very limited and insecure plan after all.

Winning the game is not always winning

I recall vividly playing a rugby game for the Military Academy (military faculty of the University of Stellenbosch) against the Wellington Teacher Training College in the Cape. On paper we were a superior team by far and we eventually won the game. However, I recall the incredible support given for their team by the few thousand mainly women supporters on the grand stand. They played with a passion that was frightening in its intensity and motivation. Two of their players were hurt so badly that they had to be carried off the field. Our normal confident style of play was severely tested and we had to resort to Plan B in order to win. It was a narrow victory and I am not sure who the victors were really on the day!

Our Plan A’s will often run into walls. May the reader also discover that our alphabet plans may often turn out to be far superior to our initial Plan A’s in terms of values that really matter.

This article was featured in the

The Workplace




Adriaan, as an accomplished author and leadership advisor, has been interviewing and working with top leaders for more than 15 years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Leadership Platform. (Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP)

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022
Email: info@leadershipplatform.com

Follow Us

Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


By subscribing you will be updated with the latest insights and news from us. We never spam.