Get great results by assuming the worst

by Michele on September 30, 2011

One of the best things I’ve learned about business management is to always assume the worst – assume that everything will go wrong and many mistakes will be

Solopreneurs should be prepared for things to go wrong

Solopreneurs should figure out what to do before things go wrong

made.  This rule has saved me and saved my projects when I was a project manager in corporate America, in my home renovation and of course in my business.

It may seem that this would lead to negative thinking, but I think it works just the opposite.  By always assuming the worst and being prepared for it, things will almost always go better than you think and when they don’t you’ll be prepared.   This helps me to keep a positive outlook.  Given the complexity of modern living, it’s realistic for things to often get messed up so acknowledging and preparing for it isn’t negative, it’s just realistic.  Even when things do go bad, I feel better about it because I know I’ve done everything I can to prepare.

What can you do to save yourself and your projects before things go wrong?  Here are some ideas:

  • Confirm the details at least twice.  Don’t give a second thought to offending anyone – communication is tough and your efforts will save everyone later.  It may not even be the other party that gets things wrong, so confirm for yourself as well.
  • Get things in writing whenever you can.  I’ve found that it’s much easier for two people to get different ideas from the same communication if it’s verbal as opposed to written.  If you are talking to someone, send a follow up email outlining your understanding of the conversation.  Having something in writing gives you something to refer to if things do go wrong.
  • Get clear on a next step.  What is to be done, who will do it and by when?  If the next step belongs to the other person let them know and get their approval to follow up with them if you don’t hear from them.  I say something like “So I’ll call you Wednesday if I haven’t gotten the report okay?”
  • Always have a backup plan or more than one if you can.  I cannot tell you how many times this has saved me when things have gone horribly wrong.  Try to think of everything that can go wrong and have a solution before you need it.  Before going to great lengths on this one, make sure to weigh the potential damage if things go wrong vs. how much effort it will take to make a backup plan because it’s not always worth it.  Some things go wrong and there’s very little negative effect so it wouldn’t be worth it to create a backup plan.
  • Knowing that things do go wrong, leave slack in all of your projects.  Build in extra time and money and any other resources that could sink your project such as technical expertise.  If you are depending on someone else such as a contractor or copy shop, give them a deadline well before you actually need it in case something goes wrong.

Do you use this mindset in your work?  Does it make you feel more positive?  Leave a comment telling me how it works for you.

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