Contingency Planning in Decision Making
When a choice is made the implementation of that choice can be seen as an action plan. Contingency planning is the process of protecting a plan against what might go wrong in future.
Without a plan, nothing can go wrong and hence contingency planning can only start once a plan has been developed (this is in contrast to problem solving which should occur first to provide the information needed to make a plan). Contingency planning may be needed because there is a weakness in a new plan or to protect an existing plan where the situation is changing . It can be seen as a number of brainstorming steps designed to uncover possible future problems which then become the focus of subsidiary plans to either prevent those problems occurring or to reduce their effects.
Steps in contingency planning are as follows:
1 List all the steps in the plan and identify key areas which include unknowns or which are particularly critical to plan success.
2· Using 1 as a focus, brainstorm possible problems and then identify those on your list having a high seriousness and high probability of occurrence.
3 Using 2 as a focus, brainstorm possible causes of major problems and identify causes with a high probability of occurrence.
4 Develop plans aimed at preventing problem causes identified in 3 and which have a high probability of occurrence.
5· Using 2 as a focus identify problems still likely to occur (despite 3 and 4) and list the negative effects that would happen.
6 Develop plans to handle serious negative effects identified in 5. Ensure a warning mechanism if those effects could start suddenly or unexpectedly.
Because people are anxious for their plans to succeed, they often fail to examine them critically and hence miss flaws which could easily have been corrected. In the same way it is easy to be defensive about criticism of a plan rather than thinking how we can use the information to our advantage.
In contrast Napoleon is said to have mentally rehearsed every battle he fought weeks before the event. He would go over his own tactics, visualising the enemy defences, their reaction and the terrain.
In the same way we can significantly increase the success of our own plans by mentally rehearsing them both to eliminate possible problems and to prepare our defence should these problems arise.