On the north side of Yosemite Valley, near the western end, there is a vertical rock formation named El Capitan. It’s considered one of the most challenge rock faces to climb up and is a favorite among advanced rock climbers.

If you speak with some of these climbers, they constantly are talking about the “route” they take to get to the top. Which hand-holds in a sequence of moves makes the most sense to get to a certain spot and where it gets tricky. It’s planning and like all good plans, you have a projected anticipation of what’s to come and how to get there.

Business planning is not that much different. Anyone that has tried to write a business plan knows just how daunting that task it can be. The “fill-in-the-blank” templates leave much to be desired and despite lofty spreadsheets and research there is an inescapable feeling of, “what is it that I’m missing?”

In business planning, the goal is to reduce the amount of uncertainty to as close to zero as possible. This is much easier said than done because like career planning, once you have a mission the common notion is that it’s advantageous to create detailed specific goals that will manifest where you want to be in five years time.

This kind of thinking is necessary. You have to do this in order to have a solid conceptual understanding of what you are doing, but it’s essentially staring up at a rock wall and saying, “OK – I want to be there.” It gives you a macro-understanding of what you want to do, but anyone who has been up 60 feet on a rock face will tell you, the only thing you can do while executing your plan is to operate and think about is what is just three feet in front of you. Many business owners and entrepreneurs can relate.

As important as it is to know where you’re going, having a living plan is almost more important.

This is difficult to do in a dynamic world, because change will happen.

Sometimes the route to climb doesn’t look the same when you’re up close. Sometimes you have down climb, or change your route entirely.

The Start Up of You,” by Ried Hoffman and Ben Casnocha describe the framework of “ABZ planning” as an answer to static business/career planning. We cover this in greater detail in several of our CEA business planning courses.

ABZ planning is a, more flexible, adaptive approach that allows you to aggressively pursue the upside of a venture while mitigating against possible downside risks. It’s an iterative process. There is not a beginning, a middle or an end stage. It’s constantly in “permanent beta” as the book explains.

Plan A is essentially what you are doing right now. It’s what you have implemented currently. With plan A, you still make minor adjustments and iterate frequently on what you’re doing.

Plan B is what you pivot to when you need to change. This can be a change in your goal or the route to getting there. It’s still in the ballpark of Plan A, just not something that is entirely foreseeable or static.

Once you pivot to Plan B and stick with it, that then becomes your new Plan A.

Plan Z is the fallback position. Some call it the “the lifeboat.” In life, business and in rock climbing, there are sometimes failures. Then there are unacceptable failures. Plan Z answers the question, “what if everything goes wrong?” It’s a very certain plan and allows you to take on the uncertainty of Plans A and B. It’s basecamp.

Plan Z has two critical parts. First, how do you identify or measure if you’re headed towards a “worst case scenario?” Second, it’s the plan that tells you what to do should that happen.

It’s important to note that there are some additional key aspects of ABZ Planning which we will be covering in upcoming posts.

Climbing is not about brute strength. It’s about elegance, similar to the idea of being flexibly persistent. Most importantly, understanding that investing in yourself everyday is a process, not a procedure.
Make it happen.

For more information, visit http://www.thestartupofyou.com/