There is a lot to unpack and contemplate in Obama’s new memoir, but one of the things that jumped out at me immediately was a quote from Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner – “Plan beats no plan.”
Plan beats no plan?
The circumstances were regarding the economical disaster that had befallen before Obama came to office. He had three proposed plans, none of them of which he was in love with. He went forward with the one he hated the least, but continued to have reservations. When he would voice them, Geithner always had the same response – “Plan beats no plan.
Which is to say not only that a good plan beats no plan, but that a bad plan does as well.
Here’s the thing about plans. When you make a plan and act on it, you have broken out of the miasma of stuckedness (not a word, should be) where most people spend days, years, and, often, lifetimes. If the plan is a brilliant one and takes you straight to your goals with little deviation, well, there you have it. But what about if it fails? Well, if it fails, you know what doesn’t work. Beyond that, you have learned a hell of a lot about what might work in the process.
When Ulysses Grant decided to build a tunnel so that his guys could sneak up on the Confederates, attack Richmond, and end the war before supper, it turned out not to just be a bad plan, but a horrible what the hell was I thinking about who can I blame kind of plan that cost over 4,000 lives. Grant came to see it as “thew saddest affair I have witnessed in this war.”
But he learned from it. This was was not going to end with a big, major attack. Lee knew too well how to entrench him men and put them in good positions to kill large numbers of attacking forces. No, instead, Grant was going to have to proceed with the far less satisfying plan of starving out the army and the population and conducting a series of flanking movements that would bring about the goal he sought, which was the defeat of Lee’s army.
Plan is better than no plan. Because, even when it blows up in your face, it leads to a better plan.