The Best Bad Plan

Often you have to choose from alternatives that all have problems or to triage and identify where you efforts will have the most impact in a bad situation. Reconciling yourself to the “best bad plan” is a key skill for entrepreneurs. I was reminded of this by the following exchange in the movie ARGO:

Tony Mendez: “There are only bad options. It’s about finding the best one.”
Warren Christopher: “You don’t have a better bad idea than this?”
Jack O’Donnell: “This is the best bad idea we have, sir, by far.”

Triage is Selecting The Best Bad Plan

Technical entrepreneurs are often faced with two challenges that they find take them out of their comfort zone:

  • Negotiating with people: people are unpredictable in ways that hardware/software systems and natural phenomena are not. While systems may have hidden properties, people often have complex motives and needs that can make their behavior hard to predict.
  • Selecting the least unsatisfactory option when events dictate a choice  be made: this is not triage, this is making the best of a bad situation (making lemonade when life has handed you lemons). Very little in formal technical education addresses this challenge and the temptation is to defer making a decision until a better option can be developed.

Implications for Product Roadmaps

I addressed this for software roadmaps in “Making The Trains Run On Time

A software roadmap is a complex multi-party treaty, negotiated not only internally between sales, marketing, support, development but externally with customers  and other interested parties. It’s not a real plan until everyone is somewhat dissatisfied.

The challenges of managing a roadmap are exacerbated by politics in a large organization,  while startups often wrestle with the significant uncertainties of if and when prospects–each with their own  needs–are going to close.

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