When Things Don’t Go as Planned


When things go right, when they go really, really well, it’s usually because you have an optimal combination of three things:

  • The right resources,
  • The right process, and
  • The right approach.

Occasionally, all the pieces of the puzzle come together just right and the resulting picture is a thing of beauty. This isn’t everyday reality, though. Is it? Usually, one or more things goes at least a little wrong and the picture isn’t quite as pleasing as had been planned.

In those cases, it is vital to pause and assess the situation to learn how to improve for the next time. Here are some thoughts about resources, processes, and approaches to help you diagnose the situation the next time you’re disappointed with results.


Resources includes tools and technology, financial resources, information, and other things that enable your processes to occur. I include people in this category, but I hesitate to refer to people merely as “resources”—the people on your team are so much more important than the things previously listed. In any case, resources as well as people can contribute to mucked-up plans in two broad ways:

  • Incorrect resources are a problem just like using the blade of a utility knife to turn a screw into a hole. That’s the wrong tool for the job and trouble is likely to be the result. In business this is most often evident in the wrong technology, equipment, and personnel for the job.
  • The wrong quantity or amount resources can be an issue when you don’t have enough of what you need (very often this is the case with money and with people) or even too much. We’ve all experienced the paradox of realizing we had too much information to make an effective decision or too many people working on a project.


There are at least two ways that processes contribute to bad results: bad process design and bad timing.

  • Bad process design is far more prevalent than most people realize. I’m often amazed at how quickly people learn to accept bad processes by developing personal work-arounds. An example is exporting data from a database into a spreadsheet, manipulating the data in the spreadsheet, then re-entering the final results into the original database.
  • Bad timing contributes to poor results, too. This most often takes the following shapes: the right steps at the wrong place in the process, or starting the process too soon or too late. For many processes, timing is critical.


More important than the issues of resources and process is the approach that a leader takes in solving a problem. These are the soft skills that take many forms:

  • Effective stewardship of the resources
  • Coordinating leaders around a strategy
  • The attitude and energy focused on the problem
  • Follow through and commitment to a strong finish
  • Applying the correct processes at the right time
  • Enlisting others and their skills to solve new challenges
  • … and more

Platter Combo

I’m sure that your experience is the same as mine: When things don’t go as planned, the root cause is never just one issue. It’s really a set of root causes (plural!). I have found that problems are caused by a mix of resource and process issues and, to be truthful, I have made mistakes along the way, too. So, when you pause to diagnose what went wrong with the plans, and your list includes several factors, ask yourself three questions:

  1. Which of these am I responsible for?
  2. Which of these are under my control?
  3. Which of these can I influence immediately?

Your answers will guide you to better results next time. However, consider whether you should conduct an analysis with others on the team, too. Together, you might see a path to bigger and better change.

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 by geralt. Photo available at Pixabay under CC0 license. Image modified for size and space.

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