The Pentagon has a zombie defense plan. Seriously. The plan, presented in an unclassified document dated April 30, 2011, and called CONOP 8888, addresses how to fend off an attack from zombies whether they are vegetarian, “evil magic zombies,” from outer space, bio-engineered, humans infected with a pathogen morphing into zombies, or several other types.
The summary of CONOP 8888 includes the statement:
“This plan fulfills fictional contingency planning guidance tasking for U.S. Strategic Command to develop a comprehensive [plan] to undertake military operations to preserve ‘non-zombie’ humans from the threats posed by a zombie horde… Because zombies pose a threat to all non-zombie human life, [Strategic Command] will be prepared to preserve the sanctity of human life and conduct operations in support of any human population — including traditional adversaries.”1
Once again: Seriously. The disclaimer for CONOP 8888 says, “this plan was not actually designed as a joke” (emphasis added).
But zombies? Really? Does anyone in their right mind think we need a military response to a zombie horde? No. Of course not. But Navy Captain Pamela Kunze, spokeswoman for Strategic Command, described the exercise as “a training tool used in an in-house training exercise where students learn about the basic concepts of military plans and order development through a fictional training scenario.”
The point is that a team of people sat down to develop a comprehensive plan for an unthinkable scenario. The process forced them to think about challenges they wouldn’t normally think about. They had to ask questions and find answers they would not otherwise ever consider. As a result they developed critical and creative thinking skills, as well as teamwork skills. These skills will serve the team well when dealing with more traditional threats (like, say, a foreign power seizing U.S. territory, or a regional war, or …).
Have you sat your team down to develop a zombie defense plan? What is the worst possible thing you can imagine happening to your company? Write that down. Think harder. What is worse than that? Write that down. Even worse? Write that down.
Go ask your leadership team: “What is the worst possible thing that can happen to our company?” Write their responses down. Ask them what would be worse than that. Write that down, too.
Now go develop your own zombie defense plans.
What’s the likelihood of any of these things happening? Fairly low. That’s not the point, though. Sitting down to explore difficult questions, challenging your deepest assumptions, and testing the limits of your resources will prepare you for “normal” problems.
(For more on contingency planning, see Alert! Alert! by Scott Yorkovich.)
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.
Photo “Zombie!” by Daniel Hollister. Available at Flickr.com.
The basic facts of CONOP 8888 come from “Exclusive: The Pentagon Has a Plan to Stop the Zombie Apocalypse. Seriously.” by Gordon Lubold, May 13, 2014, writing for Foreign Policy.