Rolling with It

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A good plan is good for little without the willingness to adapt

What’s up, co-op? The value of a well thought out plan cannot be understated, whether you’re talking about a business plan for your whole organization, a plan for your next project, or planning out your upcoming vacation. A good plan adds order to your life, leaving you prepared to respond rather than to react to challenges that come up. Take a close look at CU*Answers and you’ll see one plan after another: our annual business plan, strategic technology plan, our software development life cycle, a people development life cycle, and on and on.

Success doesn’t end at writing a plan though. Not even at following that plan. In fact, strict adherence to your best laid plans will more often hurt than help. To really thrive, in life or in business, you have to be comfortable with adapting to life’s circumstances. Adaptability lets us roll with the punches and shift our plans to meet rising challenges.

My daughter recently visited Iceland. As she traveled from Detroit to Iceland she was excited to observe the changes in languages, the landscape, food, architecture and technology. With all the research and planning she had done before the trip–EXTENSIVE as she described it–she shared how many times she was still surprised or had her world view challenged by the experiences. I asked her how she handled it. Her response was a simple, “I just rolled with it, adjusted on the fly and it all worked out.”

To me, this is an important life skill and I was glad to see I had successfully taught it to my children. Just think how many times in a given day we need to adjust, accommodate, overcome and move happily on. And the biggest issue with inflexibility isn’t just that it negatively impacts you, but that transfers to your employees and to your business, which in a highly competitive environment can mean certain doom. If you’re someone who struggles with adapting to change, work on the following:

1. Train yourself on letting go—if you’re trying to control external factors impacting you or your business that are just plain out of your control, then you’re voluntarily running face first into a wall trying to break through it. Take a step back, take a deep breath, walk around the wall, and you’ll find yourself back on track. See adaptability not as something to shy away from, but as something to look forward to.

2. Study the game—you may have also heard this referred to as having grasp. The more you learn during your planning phase, whether it’s about your organization, competitors, technology, or industry trends, the better you can react to shifts. You’ll be able to see queues, anticipate change, and be ready to respond.

3. Think small—the easiest way to become overwhelmed when faced by changes to your plans is to only look at them in terms of the big picture and the long run. While it’s not a bad thing to be able to see the big picture, when you’re faced with changes set small goals. Those smaller, more attainable objectives will make what formerly seemed unfathomable, manageable.

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