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I Need a New Plan, This One Isn’t Working (Or, Is It?) June 4, 2014

Posted by Tim Rodgers in job search, Process engineering.
Tags: , , ,

At what point should you abandon your plan and make a new one? How do you know when the old plan isn’t going to work? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately during my current job search. Everyone tells me that I’m doing the right things, that’s it’s a “numbers game,” and if I just keep doing those things then eventually I’ll land a job. On the other hand I keep thinking of that quote attributed to Einstein, that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

This seems like a general problem with any plan, including a change management process. When you implement the plan you have some confidence that the plan will yield the results or the improvement that you’re looking for. When those positive results don’t happen as expected, does that mean the plan was the wrong one? Is it the right plan, but you’ve overlooked some hidden influence that prevents the plan from working? Does the system have some kind of latency that delays the impact of the plan, and you just have to be a little patient? If you quit now and change the plan or revert to the old process, are you giving up just before the miracle happens? Conversely, if you do abandon the plan and things suddenly improve, does that prove the plan was the wrong one?

One way to determine if the plan is on-track would be to schedule intermediate checkpoints to measure effectiveness and progress. That works for situations where progress can be measured as a continuous variable. If you’re moving the needle in the right direction, you only have to decide if the magnitude of the improvement is acceptable. This doesn’t work if success/failure is strictly binary. Until I actually get a job, I can’t say whether my current plan (or any other) is working. A job search plan that leads to more job interviews could be said to be more effective in one sense because it improves my chances, but my ultimate goal isn’t just an interview.

So, how do you judge a plan if you can’t measure its progress? This is where the thinking that went into creating the plan or process improvement becomes important. Any plan assumes some kind of cause-and-effect relationship between inputs and outputs. If I do this, or stop doing this, or do this differently, then I will get the desired outcome. If I don’t get the desired outcome, then it may be time to revisit the assumed relationship between inputs and outputs. The plan may be based on a weak causal model that does not account for input variables with a stronger influence on the outcome. The desired outcome itself may be poorly defined: Am I looking for any job, or a specific kind of job? My plan may be the right one for an outcome that’s different than the one I really want.

Patience has never been my strong suit. It can be hard to stick with a plan that doesn’t seem to be delivering the right results. However, before abandoning a plan for something else that has no better chance of succeeding, it’s worth spending a little time examining the assumed model to check for flaws.





1. Fred Schenkelberg - June 7, 2014

Hi Tim,

Good article and thoughtful. I don’t like deadlines or a schedule, yet they can be very motivating. For some of my current projects getting feedback has been helpful. Prototype and adjust.

As with any plan, there are two elements to change.

1. The route or steps to achieve the vision or goal
2. The goal or vision needs to change.

1 is a bit easier to accomplish and is called flexibility. 2 is and should be more difficult, and done poorly would be considered bad practice.

thanks, made me think.



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