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I Love It When A Plan Comes Together (Or What I Learned About Business Playing Board Games)

March 27, 2017

It’s really my brother’s fault. He has a tradition of giving my family a game at Thanksgiving every year. Two years ago he gave us “Star Trek Attack Wing – Starter Pack.” Conceptually, it’s a pretty simple game. In practice, it’s immensely complicated. You take control of a group of model ships, fly them around a table top and try to kill the other guy’s group of model ships.

The complexity is in designing your ships. You pick a ship (for example, the USS Enterprise) then, you pick a captain, a crew, a set of weapons and tech upgrades. The combinations are endless. The game is really two games. The second game is flying your ships around the table top, rolling dice and trying to kill the other fleet. But, before you can play that portion of the game, you must first build your fleet.

The fleet building process can take as long or longer than the actual fight itself. It’s sometimes tempting to skip the fleet building portion. But, without that step, it’s impossible to move on to the second step. I now own hundreds of the little ships and thousands of the cards, and he’s the one who got me started.

I enjoy woodworking. I have built bookshelves, footlockers and even entire portions of my house. The fun part of building anything is using the saws and hammers and power tools. But, because I design my own pieces, I first have to design the piece. A footlocker might require 20 seperate cuts. I design every single cut and board before I ever turn on a saw or don my safety glasses.

It’s the planning that is the critical piece of any successful operation. Ironically, any competent planner will agree, “The first causalty of contact with the enemy is the battle plan.” My friend Howard Tayler describes this concept as

“Don’t expect the enemy to cooperate in the creation of your dream engagement.”
– Maxim 47, “Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries”

A plan in business is just as vital as a military battle plan, or a blueprint before cutting up boards. Business plans come in two flavors: company and personal. A company business plan is exactly what you expect. We are rolling out a new product next month. We need a plan for how we are going to distribute it, market it, advertise it, etc. Or, we are building a new software program. We need a design document that describes what it will do, how it will do it, what types of databases and servers it will need.

But, you should also have personal business plans. How are you going to advance your career? What is your personal 5 year plan? If another department is opposed to your latest project, how are you going to win the necessary approvals to get it pushed through?

While it is true that the battle plan never survives contact with the enemy, the objectives of the battle plan, hopefully do.

As a wise TV character once said,

“I love it when a plan comes together.”
– Hannible Smith, “The A-Team”

Actually, I think he said it more than once.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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