The Wisdom of Contingency Planning

Contingency planning is like playing chess.

by Michael Corthell

In business or government or even in your personal life, it is never wise to put all of one's 'eggs in one basket'. It is therefore a good idea to develop a contingency plan.  ''Expect the unexpected'' is a wise dictate and it is the basis of smart living. 

A contingency plan is often referred to as a 'Plan B'.  A ''Plan B'' is simply an alternative plan of action if what was expected to happen in 'Plan A' doesn't work out. Contingency planning is also one facet of business continuity, disaster recovery and risk management. It is part of plain old smart planning and common sense.

''An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.''
― Benjamin Franklin

Without a contingency plan, you could end up in a very depressing and negative situation, you might even be wallowing in your own despair if things don’t work out as you had hoped. Not a very positive thing, is it?? We are all about positive thought here, so lets get to it.

With small projects you can often get away without a contingency plan however, with larger projects a contingency plan is an absolute necessity. The larger the project, the bigger and more detailed your plan will have to be.

How to create a simple contingency plan

For large projects, as stated above, you will need a very detailed contingency plan. However, most projects won't fall into that category, so you can create a good contingency plan in a very short time. Try to use the 'brain storming' or 'master mind' technique. Here is a guide:

What could go off the rails? Think of as many things as possible that could go wrong. Let your imagination run wild. List each item and keep going until you feel that you have run out of potential problems.

What can you handle or control? Look at the list of potential issues and divide them into 2 columns.  What you can control and, what you cannot. There is no point dwelling on things which fall outside of your control so dump that list.

How likely is it that each problem will occur? Use a scale of what is highly unlikely to happen where 10 is highly likely to happen. Give each problem or issue on the list a number.

How damaging will each event be? Again, use a 1 to 10 scale, and give each item on the list a rating based on impact of the damage.

What contingency do you choose for each? Go through through each item on the list. Do it in this order:
1. Things which are both potentially damaging and also more likely to happen
2. Things which would be very damaging (and disrupting) if they occurred
3. Things which are more likely to happen and most likely to happen.

The very first step in this process, in planning for any contingency, is to ask yourself and your group if you can actually eliminate the possibility of the problem happening in the first place. An ounce of prevention... and all that.  It is better to eliminate the risk than have to deal with it — and it's a lot less costly.

If the risk can't be avoided, you have to figure out what you can do if the situation should arise.

Even if the solution you choose can't eliminate the problem, there will usually be something that you can do to minimize the impact and avoid total disruption of your life and/or business.

Never ignore an obvious problem. Be responsible and always remember to be POSITIVE and pro-active.

More Reading:

Disaster recovery and contingency planning security considerations
Here is what contingency planning is and what it is not: