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April 4th, 2019
Plans are not roadmaps. Like instructions, roadmaps are representations of actual phenomena.
Instructions dictate a series of actions that produce a certain result.
Roadmaps do much the same thing. Roadmaps dictate a series of directions that produce a certain destination.
Take a left, go 4 blocks, turn right, first place on your left.
Boil water, add pasta, wait 10 minutes, strain and eat.
Too often we fail to remember the distinction between these concrete frameworks about reality and the imaginings we have for the future, i.e. Plans
A plan is a temporary manifestation of a strategy. Both plans and strategies are dynamic entities. This means that they change. A strategy changes based on new incoming information that changes our model of the world or situation.
A change in strategy must reflexively produce a change in plans.
If our plans fail to change due to new information, than there is either something wrong with our awareness, our understanding of what we observe, or the nature of our strategy.
However, if we have the capacity to notice new information, then it goes to follow that our awareness might not be too bad. This leaves understanding and strategy as the culprits for producing rigid and brittle plans that fail to succeed due to a lack of flexibility.
If we fail to understand something, than there is likely a detail, or a perspective that is eluding our attention. If we have recognized some potentially important information, but it is confusing or for whatever reason our strategy does not properly react to such information, we may need to consciously go back upstream and investigate more fully what phenomena our awareness has gifted us. Discovering the right detail can make all the difference and click off a cascading set of understandings and ideas, and eventually, a new plan about what we can do.
Note however that plans are specific designs about what reality could be. Roadmaps and instructions are concrete frameworks about what reality actually is.
The nuance concept of specificity here is the subversive bridge in language that fools much of our thinking about reality and plans. Specificity is easily coupled with the concept of concreteness with regards to roadmaps and instructions.
The specificity of a plan is a feature of a tightly iterating strategy, not a definitive statement about reality.
To illustrate this, we might think of a road trip. Looking at a map, we trace along a highway and any twists and turns it might take to get to our destination. We form a plan based on the frameworks we have at hand that we have good reason to believe accurately reflect reality. We can note how specific the plan is based on this roadmap, but we can also envision other routes that lead to the same destination if we pretend that our preferred route does not exist. Then we go on our trip based on our plan which is based on a strategic consideration of the map we have at hand. Halfway through a mountainous portion of the drive however, we discover that a large portion of the road has been swept away in a landslide creating a drop off where on the map there illustrates a continuous road. The new information we experience on the fly in real time instantly updates what we know about our map of reality: it was inaccurate. The solution in such a physical case is obvious, turn around and find another way. But in less obvious circumstances, much of our action is characterized by driving straight off the cliff. We stick to our plan even though we’ve encountered information that dictates our plan is no longer wise to follow.
Plans are imaginative reconfigurations of possibilities that we form based on the concrete maps we have available.
The specificity of both is crucial because one depends on the accuracy of the other, but staying tied to the specificity of a plan when we find the map is inaccurate can be catastrophic.
It’s for this reason our plans must embody a somewhat paradoxical contradiction:
Plans must both be highly changeable and highly specific.
This is a grey space, a liminal or in-between space that people are generally uncomfortable with.
But if we can relinquish our obsession with security and embrace the unknown, we can inhabit this paradoxical space.
When we do, our strategy grows stronger through agility. Our strategy gains the ability to redesign new plans as fast as we gather information, allowing our path to pivot more efficiently towards our goals.
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