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Comment: A seasonal lesson of Light and Life

By Græme Gordon, executive director, Praxity


I admit it. I’m one of those people who dresses up their house for the holiday season. I’m not apologising, I’m just saying. Some do it, some don’t. Some like it, some don’t.

I think it adds to the festivities, especially for those living in the northern half of the Northern Hemisphere, for whom the nights are getting longer, colder and darker. A few bright lights –OK, a lot of bright lights – at night can cheer you up.

I always look forward to getting home, but even more so with cheery lights to greet me.

I could go on about colour coordination and lighting sequences, but the real reason I mention all this is to do with planning.

Now I think I’ve mentioned my rule of 7Ps before – Perfect Planning Prevents unProductive Poor Performance, Probably. However, like all rules, there are caveats and cautions.

When it came to planning this year’s holiday lighting scheme, I intended to repeat the success of last year – a tasteful mixture of icy blue and white LED lights, along with a few seasonal animal characters.

My son was volunteered to help me, which he did for a few hours and his help was very useful. But it emerged that he’d placed all but one of the strings of blue lights, and no white ones at all, on one side of the garden.

A small thing but with big impact.

Change of plan!

For me, this emphasised the final P – Probably. As a military strategist Helmuth von Moltke astutely said “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”. Not that my son’s my enemy but it’s equally true in domestic efforts, business or military endeavours, that even the perfect plan needs constant modification, as real events interfere and affect outcomes.

As former UK Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, replied when asked what was the most difficult thing to deal with when planning his week, “Events, dear boy, events!”

Thus, my plan changed. The whole garden was filled with blue lights and I even bought a (very cheap) archway that I covered in them. I then draped the house in white lights and ‘icicles’. This worked exceptionally well. Especially with the reindeer and polar bear models. (Don’t ask.)

What all this brought home is the role of flexibility in success.

We should always plan where we can, and try to foresee where alternative routes and contingency planning might be required.

But like every budget process I’ve been involved with, the only certainty is that in the end virtually none of the amounts budgeted will be equal to the actual amount expensed or received.

I’m still convinced that the 7Ps are the way to go. It’s just that we also need to be nimble, agile and vigilant, to ensure we ultimately achieve what we intend to, even if it’s not by the route we initially thought. Don’t get so bogged down in the process that you lose sight of the final goal.

Remember, “shift happens!” Just be ready for it.

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