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When Uncertainty Is A Constant, You Can Still Plan for Surprises
April 7, 1998 | WSJ | By HAL LANCASTER.

one of the few certainties in today's tumultuous business world: About all anyone can expect is the unexpected.

Hal Lancaster answers readers' questions on career issues in Career Corner. Send your questions or comments by e-mail to hlancast@wsj.com .

Between mergers and restructurings, new technology and intensified global competition, "change is accelerating," says Dallas management consultant Price Pritchett, who specializes in change management. "The more change and the faster it comes at us, the easier it is for us to get blindsided."

But isn't the ability to cope with the unexpected genetically coded? "Some people have a high need for structure and don't like to wing it." Still, anyone can get better at dealing with surprises.

Here are some other effective strategies:

* Figure out what you can control.

* Plan tight and play loose. "deep planning," or considering all conceivable scenarios and what-ifs. But won't the unexpected foil the best-laid plans? "The better job we do planning, the better we'll do improvising, because we'll understand the situation better,"

* Develop solutions. In a soon-to-be-released booklet on innovation that he is publishing for clients, Dr. Pritchett draws lessons from the 1997 Mars Pathfinder mission. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory talked about "crafting solutions that were tolerant to the uncertainties" of such a project,

* Separate fact from assumptions.

To make good decisions, you need good information. In turbulent times, Mr. Postons observes, "people get suspicious, they get paranoid and that's when they get frozen."

* Do something.In an environment of high-velocity change, Dr. Pritchett says, remember the perils of passivity. "You have to keep moving forward, knowing that in this blurry, fast-moving world, you're going to have to drive on fog lights much of the time."

Concentrating on a plan of action and lining up others to help can turn despair into accomplishment, Dr. Stoltz says. The strategy, he adds, is "whiner-proof and solution-oriented."
Hal_Lancaster  Managing_Your_Career  uncertainty  adversity  surprises  critical_thinking  managing_change  unexpected  cost_of_inaction  assumptions  change  resilience  tumultuous  constant_change  solutions  solution-finders  accelerated_lifecycles  action_plans  span_of_control  momentum  blindsided  blind_spots  beyond_one's_control  JPL  next_play 
december 2012 by jerryking

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