All plans change all the time

A friend of mine once told me, “The enemy gets a vote.” His point is that you can have the best plans, but variables beyond your control will arise and require you to rethink your approach. “Adapt to win” he would say.

This principle can certainly come into play during market research. You have to always be thinking and working with what is given to you. You may have to change the order of your questions or the questions themselves. Respondents will need rescheduled. Stimuli will evolve from one market to another.

We could go on and on how this principle applies to market research, but frankly I would rather write about something else, and its my blog. So I will illustrate the principle with a recent adventure of mine, and you can apply the principle, as you see fit, to your work, life, etc..

Background: 2 phases of research planned in Tokyo separated by 10 days

Original Plan: Follow Phase 1 remotely. Attend Phase 2 live

All Plans Change All The Time

New Plan: Attend both phases, with travel costs dictating a 10 day stay in Tokyo between phases

I’ve done research in Japan several times. But I’ve never spent 17 days there! As I scrambled to make travel arrangements, I began to layout and digest the schedule I would keep. There was work to be done between phases…. Work I would do from my new office (aka my hotel room). I began to feel claustrophobic even as I booked my room.

Side note about me: I prefer to be outside. I was going to need an escape…. a reset.

Why not climb Mount Fuji?! (I don’t always make great life choices, and asking myself these types of questions is usually contributory to that fact.)

I did a little research (very little) and packed a few items for the climb. I knew I would need water, and I suspected it would be chilly at the top. So boots, ruck, hydration bladder, and a couple of warm layers were crammed in and around work clothes, laptops, etc..

Original Plan: I would climb Fuji the first Friday I was there.

Upon arrival, my Japanese colleagues informed me the day I had chosen was Mountain Day, a new Japanese national holiday. The ascent would be like standing in line at Walmart on Black Friday.

All Plans Change All The Time

New Plan: Head to Fuji the following Tuesday

Plot Twist: I was now going to have to go to Fuji in the evening and ascend through the night. Yep. I was now going to climb Mount Fuji, by myself, at night. It is a good thing I always travel with a headlamp.

The Bonus: If I timed this right, I would be treated to sunrise from 12,389 feet above sea level.

When I went to buy my bus ticket Tuesday morning, I learned the buses sell out.

All Plans Change All The Time

New Plan: Buy bus ticket on Tuesday for a Wednesday night departure and ascent.

I left Tokyo at 8 pm and arrived at the mountain at 10

pm. I was now at 7200 feet elevation. It was dark. Everyone else on the bus must have gotten off and fallen directly in a hole, because I was suddenly alone. I walked toward what I hoped was the trail head and began what I hoped was my ascent.

As it turns out I did find the right trail. I made it to the summit in just under 6 hours, arriving about 20 minutes before sunrise. I stood in the cold, thin air and took in the most spectacular sunrise I’ve ever seen.

My descent was much faster than anticipated, and I arrived back at the 5th Station bus stop by 9am. Unfortunately I had booked my return bus for 3pm. Now I faced a 6 hour wait. It started to rain.

All Plans Change All The Time

Luckily I was able to change my ticket for an earlier coach. Wait reduced to 2 hours. A short nap under some steps and then I was headed back to Tokyo, where my lungs celebrated the return of useable air.

Very little in this adventure went as planned. Even after the objective (sunrise from the summit) was met, being open to change paid dividends.

Make a plan. Stick to it. Be ready and open to changing it.

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