Want to win? Plan to fail.

Sometimes a plan isn’t enough. The best laid plans, failing to plan means planning to fail, and a pile of other cliches come immediately to mind.

Cliches aside, planning to fail is sometimes smart, too.

Let’s say that a certain person is, generally speaking, a pretty good planner. We’ll call her Melissa, just to keep things simple.

Melissa’s going away on a trip and, yes, she’s planning to return.

However, when the second half of her roundtrip flight — which she’s carefully booked to allow for the maximum vacation time and an appropriately adequate allotment of post-trip jet lag recovery and pre-work-return ramp up time — is cancelled, what good is her plan? No good. The weather has seen to it. With its no-calendar don’t-care attitude, the weather has made its own no-plans and thrown a wrench into the carefully woven scheme.

As a result of this unplanned event, Melissa will likely have to (a) pay more, (b) be stuck longer, (c) miss more work, or (d) all of the above.

How to react?

(a) Yell and scream and say rude things about the weather and all of the airline employees
(b) Sit quietly in a corner and wait for everything to work itself out
(c) Activate Plan B
(d) Make up Plan B and then activate it

Sometimes (a) just feels right. No kidding.

And, sure, it would be pretty sweet to be able to move on straight to (c). But how often is there a Plan B?

Melissa has just a Plan A. So, when the flight’s cancelled, she’s at a bit of a loss.

You know this works both ways, right? Sometimes you’re the customer and sometimes you’re the business. As the customer, you might feel like you’re just along for the ride, be it bumpy or cancelled or worse. As the business, it’s your job to plan way way ahead.

In Melissa’s case, multiple organizations — airlines, airport, booking service — were so stuck in what should have happened that the weather issue threw them into a total tailspin. Maybe Plan B was in effect, but it was also ineffective.

Managing a Rube Goldberg machine of interlocking actions and reactions? You need more than a Plan B. Click To Tweet

More data makes it easier to have a Plan B, C, or D. Tracking the weather, understanding traveler communication needs and preferences, recognizing the staffing and systems needed to handle overflow, and taking a thorough inventory of employee needs and strengths can help organizations to train better, improve communication, and enhance customer experience.

Having the right systems in place means that the right people have the right data to make the best decisions. Sure, it’s easier said than done, but rising competition in every sector means better planning is critical. If it took you seven hours to get out of the airport and four more days to get out of the country — with no refund or rebooking plan still in sight — you’d probably look to competitors for your future travel plans, right?

Win over your customers — don’t leave them on hold and then hang up on them. Build trust with your customers — don’t leave them stranded without any hope of resolution. Inspire loyalty — show customers you’ve got them covered, no matter what.

No matter who you are, you can’t control everything. Still, planning to fail sometimes means planning to win — today and tomorrow, whatever the forecast.