You’re sitting on a plane from London to New York. How much of the time is it sticking to the flight path? 90 percent of the time? 70 percent of the time? 50 percent of the time? The correct answer is never. Sitting beside the window, gazing out at the edge of the wing, you can watch the ailerons make constant adjustments to the flight path. Thousands of times per second, the autopilot recalculates the gap between where the plane is and where it should be and issues corrective instructions.
Our businesses work like a plane. We’d rather they didn’t – that they ran according to plan, foreseeable and undisturbed. Then we’d only have to focus on the set-up, the optimal starting point. We’d arrange all the resources perfectly at the beginning and reach our goals as planned. Of course, it doesn’t work like that. Our businesses are exposed to constant turbulence, and we spend much of our time battling crosswinds and the unforeseen weather. Yet we still behave like naïve pilots: we overestimate the role of the set-up and systematically underestimate the role of correction.
Then why in business are we so reluctant to correct and revise? Because we interpret every little piece of repair work as a flaw in the plan. Obviously, we say to ourselves, our plan isn’t working out. We’re embarrassed. We feel like failures. The truth is that plans almost never work out down to the last detail, and if one does occasionally come off without a hitch, it’s purely accidental. As the American general, Dwight Eisenhower said, “Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.” It’s not about having a fixed plan, it’s about repeated replanning-an ongoing process. The moment your troops meet your opponents’, Eisenhower realised, any plan is going to be obsolete.
The upshot? We’ve got to get rid of the stigma attached to correction. Businesses which self-correct early on have an advantage over those who spend ages fiddling with the perfect set-up and crossing their fingers that their plans will work out. There’s no perfect business strategy. This is a myths. The truth is that you begin with one set-up and then constantly adjust it. The more complicated the world becomes, the less important your starting point is. So don’t invest all your resources into the perfect set-up. Instead, practice the art of correction by revising the things that aren’t quite working-swiftly and without feeling a sense of failure.