What the Scrambling Quarterback Says About Business PlanningI was delighted to catch Sometimes You Have to Scramble  in my blog feed yesterday. That post on smallbizclub.com was written by pro football hall-of-gamer Fran Tarkenton, who was famous for scrambling as quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants, back in the 1970s. Who better to point out two essential truths about real-world use of business plans? (And these are direct quotes from Fran’s post):

  1. “Making sure you have a plan is important.”
  2. “But what’s even more important is being ready to adjust and change your plan when you encounter reality.”

This is such a critical point on business planning that I am continuously collecting metaphors that explain it well, so I can make this point to as many people as possible. It certainly resonates the famous quote from President Dwight D. Eisenhower:

The plan is useless, but planning is essential.

And also another famous quote from the military:

No battle plan ever survived the first encounter with the enemy.

Fran explains:

At every snap of a football game, the offense has a plan. They know exactly what they want to do. But once the play starts, the defense can disrupt that plan. When that happens, the quarterback has a choice. He can try to run the play as designed anyway, and hope the defense doesn’t make him pay. He can give up on the play, throw the ball away or get down and just move on to the next play. Or, he can scramble and try to find a way to make something happen on that play, to make it work, even if it’s not the way they planned it. The defense might have gotten in the way of the plan, but there are other things that you can do once you see what the defense is giving you.

And that relates exactly to well-executed planning in business. You have to have a plan, he writes, but when things don’t go according to plan, you can stick to the plan regardless; or you can give up, or you can …

adjust the plan based on what’s working and what isn’t. Look at where you are, where you want to go, and what your options are for getting there. It’s not always a direct route—a scramble might involve running one way and then another before finally finding an open route to the goal—but it keeps moving at all times.

Right on!

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.