Mike Tyson famously said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” And I'm not trying to tell you that Tyson is a philosopher, or some sort of role model. I mean he bit a guy's ear off on live TV...and lost the fight! But his record was impressive and many of the champ’s opponents claimed to "have a plan" to beat him. Of course, Tyson typically responded that a plan won't matter once he socks 'em in the face.
Let's focus on what is useful in this context...what do we do after we get punched in the face. There's both wisdom and folly in this quote, Tyson assumes brute force will always prevail (that all changed when Tyson encountered James Butler Douglas). He also assumed his opponents’ plans could not be altered in real time.
In business I always like to have a plan, and execute against it, otherwise you're driving aimlessly. However, altering that plan as we gather more information is good practice because even the smartest people are going to be wrong a lot. The entire lean startup methodology, and agile development framework are based around this concept. The assumptions are:
- You have a well thought out plan, with defined expectations/outcomes
- You have a team in place that can execute all or some portion of the plan
- You have a means to collect data on your plans assumptions, and can alter any plan as you learn more or if it goes off course
- You can always make another plan.
This all makes sense. It's logical. Who would disagree? If you do, feel free to shoot me an email. What's crazy to me is, with all the CS and Pro Serve and Revenue teams we talk to daily at Baton, almost all are stuck using spreadsheets or internal PM tools to manage their workflow. These certainly count as, having a plan but, when they get “punched in the mouth”...the plan goes to shit as it cannot adapt. Because these tools are static and require the PM to make manual updates, or the user to update items. Many times these teams don't know they've been “hit” until weeks after it happened. By then, the project is too far off track to steer the outcome toward original expectations - the customers expectations are not met and the relationship begins on pretty shaky ground, or worse the customer fails to launch and churns before the product usage even starts.
At Baton we've been punched in the face...a lot. Our team has scaled over a dozen businesses to multi-hundred million and billion dollar outcomes. That track record didn’t come without our fair share of black eyes and bruised lips. We built Baton so that even when your plan gets a right hook to the jaw, you know right away what's happening. You can see the impact to your timeline and budget, figure out if you need to allocate more resources, alter the plan or reach out in real-time to your client to ensure all expectations are met. And everyone stays in the loop.
Every executive knows things happen that throw plans off schedule. That’s life! Being brought into the loop quickly, with full transparency, and with an understanding of your options is key to saving that relationship from churn. To a customer that will be an advocate for your product, it’s all in how you deal with the situation. So, stop using spreadsheets and out-dated PM tools that just leave you on the mat, unable to duck the haymaker. And start running with Baton.