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A great question to ask yourself daily: “What If?”

Two simple words packing a lot of punch. What if you woke up 5 minutes earlier? What if you helped the little old lady take her groceries out to the car? What if you read 10 more pages of that book? What if you did one more set at the gym? What if you didn’t eat that slice of cake? What if you made that extra sales call? What if you recognized and planned for all the contingencies of your plan?

The planning process is simple enough. ID the problem. Brainstorm solutions. Pick the best one. Complexity doesn’t matter as much as depth. I have been part of and led planning exercises for large, multi-day operations, and the process is the same as if I were going to pick the kids up from afternoon practice.

A simple methodology I was taught was The 5 Ts: Task, Target, Threat, Tactic, Time.

What’s not listed in The 5 T’s is “What Ifs”. What if the sun angle or weather obscures the target?  What if the enemy moves their defenses? What if we lose assets prior to execution? The list goes on and on.

To “What If” the plan is to ask all the questions you didn’t ask initially. I used to make list: What we know, what we think we know, and what we don’t know. Even on this list there is something missing. What do we not know that we don’t know. You never know what you don’t know. If you knew you didn’t know something, you would know! So how do you figure out what you don’t know that you don’t know?

Ask questions, research, and never stop the “What If” process.

I coached multiple seasons of football and won a lot of games because I was able to ask more questions in the planning process than my opponent. My planning was more thorough. My plan was more robust and detailed. I was able to plan quickly and completely leaving me more time to communicate the plan to the players, so they were more prepared on game day.

The last championship I won, we were so prepared that we were calling out the other team’s plays when they lined up. No guessing. We knew. We crushed them because we planned.

Never underestimate the power of planning. Plan everything down to the smallest detail. Estimate the contingencies. Posture the pieces by communicating the plan to those involved. Establish roles for the entire team. Perform at a high level with confidence in the plan.

And never stop asking “What if”.

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