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  • Adam Walter

The Best Laid Plans

Listen: Humanize IT Podcast Blog Ep 132

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2020 has been quite the year! This episode marks the debut of our four-part “Year in Review” series, and Skip and Adam are cracking open a well-deserved beer to chat about simpler times: Quarter 1. During the pre-pandemic good ol’ days, everyone was optimistically planning for a successful year, unaware of the storm that lay ahead.

“No plan of operation extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy’s main strength” is a common phrase tossed around in the IT world. Adam and Skip had always used it when fighting last-minute problems, but this year it really meant something to them.

In January and February, people were carrying out business as usual. Virtual C and Humanize IT were taking off, the whole year had been strategized, and all KPIs were set. The main issues to prepare for at the time were the wildfires in Australia, which could affect global business, and the upcoming primaries in the United States.

We had heard about the pandemic on the news a bit, but brushed it off since it was all overseas. Plus, we’d already been through SARS, H1N1, the Swine Flu and other viruses that were treated the same way COVID was in the beginning.

Unless you’re some sort of superpower psychic, there’s no way you could have been fully prepared for what was to come in a few short weeks. In fact, when workplaces and schools began to shut down, most assumed life as we knew it would be delayed for a week or so — maybe a month. Yet here we are, 10 months later, with the numbers skyrocketing well above what initially concerned us in late March.

The lesson we learned here is that you can always prepare for hiccups, and you can always have backup plans in place. But some happenings are so big — and so unpredictable — that when they hit, you’re forced to react quickly with little prior knowledge. These times are when those who have the grit and the skill to think on their feet will thrive.

In IT, we’re no strangers to tasks starting off super well, then going to crap quickly and having to react on the fly. It’s part of our job. We know bad things happen, so we do our best to prepare for them. Then, when said-bad-things actually happen, we’re surprised.

Succeeding in times of pressure all comes down to avoiding the “firefighting” we always talk about. That way, when new issues arise, you can focus on those instead of chasing one problem after the next. In our industry, we are constantly reacting and adapting. That said, it’s easy to distinguish those who braced for impact versus those who were still stuck firefighting when the pandemic hit. For many, the pressure to react ended up being their moment to shine.

In short, if you take away one thing from Q1 of 2020, it’s that when things are quiet, you should be planning ahead for the unthinkable. That way, when disaster strikes, you can overcome any challenge. Planning ahead is never a waste of time. Even if things don’t turn out how you predict, identifying your resources, goals and priorities during a crisis will be a value to your organization in a variety of ways for the years to come.

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