Avoid DangerI used to have this problem and I’m wondering whether you’ve experienced a similar thing.

I have what I think is a great idea and before I know it I’m started to put plans together to implement the idea. Before long I’ve put hundreds of hours into the idea. When I first started working on this project it looked really promising.

Then, things started to go sideways. What I thought was going to happen never really came to be. I knew that I should either change direction or just give up all together. Except, that I’ve put all of this time and effort in and I just didn’t want to stop.

Does this sound like something you might have experienced. If your answer is yes then read on.

My worst project happened because there was no Plan B.

When I owned my food service and vending company I had a catering division that was slow during the winter. I thought a great idea would be to take over a restaurant so my catering staff would be kept busy during our slow time and I wouldn’t have to start from scratch building a new service delivery team every Summer.

It sounded like a great idea. I found a restaurant for rent and started to negotiate. I negotiated and negotiated and eventually started to negotiate with myself. It was at this point that I really needed to have a plan B. I needed to pull the plug.

Instead, I kept negotiating and eventually ended up opening the restaurant. Eight months later I ended up closing the restaurant after losing about $75,000 with another sixteen months left on my lease. The cost for me to learn about always having a plan B was over $100,000. This is something I hope doesn’t happen to you.

Ideas almost never turn out the way you thought they should.

Literarily every plan I’ve ever put together has always ended up having strange twists and turns along the way. What about you? Have you started a project and before long you find that the road you started wasn’t the one you should follow?

If your answer is yes, what did you do about it? If you’re like many people you just kept on keeping on. You didn’t pivot, you just stayed with your original idea.

This often happens because you’ve come to believe there is only one way to get to your outcome. Reality is there are probably hundreds if not thousands of ways to get to where you want to go.

Flexibility is the key to developing any new idea. Be aware of changes that need to be made and then make them.

If you have a great big idea, chunk it down.

In the software world there is a school of thought called Agile Planning. Software developers start with a big idea and then immediately start to chunk the big idea down to smaller pieces.

The goal with Agile Planning is to produce a working prototype in a very short period of time. For this to happen the software developers need to take their big project and look at the component parts.

I want you to do the same with your plans. Don’t try to plan out every step of your new big idea. Think about what’s the smallest piece you can deliver and then do that. Let the market tell you what changes you need to make.

You’ll find your program gets developed faster with less strain on you and your team.

This where fail fast/fail cheap comes to play.

Just get something up and running. If it works the first time (which is rare) keep on going. But, if the road you’re going down isn’t working out the way you wanted it to, feel free to pivot. It’s what successful organizations do.

You don’t have to get it perfect the first time. In fact, getting it right the first time will hurt your project. You need to get real world feedback and be willing to make changes that will help make your project more viable and more interesting to your customers. It’s just the way it works.

Make sure you continue to think about your end result.

I love Stephen Covey’s mantra, “start with the end in mind.” When you do that how you get there becomes much less important.

When you keep the end result in mind, it’s not about the path you started with it’s about the path that works. Most of the time this road will be different than what you first thought. You just need to listen and be willing to make changes along the way.

And remember that sunk costs will kill your plan if you let it.

Do me a favor, don’t put so much time, effort and money into an idea that you’re not going to be willing to let go. Don’t be like me when I was negotiating the lease for my restaurant. Be willing to let go when things aren’t going the way you think they should.

It’s not really very hard. You just need to keep your options open and don’t get stuck on one idea you’re convinced will work. If I had kept my eye on keeping our staff working I could have found a much better solution than trying to operate a restaurant which just didn’t fit with what we did.

Make sure you always keep your options open. If you have a plan B in place before you start, you’re not likely going to think there is only one way…..and there never is only one way.

Topics: For business owners, sunk costs, Business Strategies, business sustainability, Innovation

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