Plan B

Morgan O'Rourke


October 1, 2011

book-Plan-B-MurrayThe business landscape is littered with companies that failed to adapt to a changing marketplace. The classic example has always been the buggy whip manufacturers of the early 20th century that were put out of business by the advent of the automobile. This phenomenon continues today with household names like Polaroid and Blockbuster Video falling by the wayside due to their inability to adapt to the latest digital fads, while Facebook and Netflix thrive by taking advantage of these same trends.

The key, according to Plan B author David Kord Murray, is in having the ability to modify your original business plan to meet the changing needs of the business environment -- something he calls "adaptive management." And in today's fast-moving, interconnected business world, having the flexibility to change with the times is more important than ever.

However, adaptive management is more than just having a back-up plan for when things go wrong. It requires an almost-scientific analysis of the market and a company's place within it so that intelligent decisions can be made to develop the strategies that will guide your company to success. From this base of knowledge and awareness, companies can quickly determine when something isn't working and change what they do or how they do it before the market passes them by.

Murray offers many compelling stories of adaptive management in action. These range from personal anecdotes about mountain climbing to historical accounts of the D-Day invasion, the Manhattan Project and the Apollo space program to corporate success stories like Wells Fargo and American Express, both of which began 150 years ago as a single express mail company called Western Express before evolving into the financial powerhouses they are today. In each case, the ability to navigate unanticipated and potentially catastrophic hurdles has directly contributed to the success of business, the operation or the climb. It is a lesson that any company would be wise to consider.

Morgan O’Rourke is editor in chief of Risk Management and director of publications for the Risk & Insurance Management Society, Inc. (RIMS)