Is Your Plan B Different Than Your Plan A?

November 5th, 2013 | Posted in Coaching | Comments Off on Is Your Plan B Different Than Your Plan A?

Recently we hosted a dinner for five of my closest friends from college and their spouses.  Over the course of the evening – any many glasses of wine – we shared some of the accumulated wisdom from our work in a wide variety of professional fields.

My favorite insight of the evening came from my former roommate, now Chief of Plastic Surgery at a major university teaching hospital.  In the course of training new plastic surgery residents, he always tells them: “Plan B should be different than Plan A.”

After our laughter subsided, the wine flowed on and the evening continued.  But in the days that followed, I’ve found myself thinking back on the power of this simple and self-evident remark.

How often do you see people who really have a good backup plan?

For many people, there simply is no Plan B.  They just assume that Plan A will work, and they hope for the best.

For many others, Plan B consists of trying Plan A again.  Or trying Plan A with more effort.

The Law Of Requisite Variety

In his 1956 book An Introduction to Cybernetics, Ross Ashby formulated what has come to be known as the law of requisite variety.  Originally expressed in mathematical terms, it has come to have broad implications in the fields of cybernetics and other complex systems – including human behavior.

The law means that:

In any system (whether of humans or machines), all other things being equal, the individual (human or machine) with the widest range of responses will control the system. 1

In other words:

The only way you can control your destiny is to be more flexible than your environment. 2

And that’s why developing meaningful options is so essential in achieving success.

Options For Change: Developing Your Plan B

One of the aspects of executive coaching that we enjoy most is helping our clients become more flexible and generate options for change.  And clients often tell us that our ability to help them discover new options is one of the most valuable aspects of the coaching we provide.

How do we do it?

There’s no secret formula or magic recipe.  But our approach often involves one or more of these techniques:

  • Using appreciative inquiry to explore your past successes and accomplishments
  • Helping you uncover and challenge limiting beliefs
  • Shifting your perspective and reframing your perceptions
  • Aligning with your values
  • Connecting with your passion and purpose
  • Imagineering with your Dreamer, Realist, and Critic
  • Tapping into your non-verbal experiences
  • Creating new self-talk
  • Building more resourceful states

Are You Ready To Realize Your Dreams And Achieve Your Goals?

If you are looking for a trusted advisor and thought partner who can challenge your thinking and help you generate the options you need to achieve your goals, please contact us for a free consultation.


1 Jerry Richardson, The Magic of Rapport.



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