CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Agenda - Uncertainty and risk of failure could cancel the efforts to achieve the goal

CEO Agenda

Uncertainty and risk of failure could cancel the efforts to achieve the goal

Every company has different and specific goals to achieve. These goals can have a variety of targets, some are affordable others are more complex to achieve. In particular, in business, it is not always easy to pursue certain goals because every target requires a very complex process to be achieved. The manager must conduct an in-depth analysis of the goal, understand the tools available, take into account a huge number of details, assess possible contingencies and many other aspects. None of these steps guarantees that the goal will be achieved.

Despite this highly articulated process, sometimes events don’t go as planned, due to a variety of more or less unexpected factors that may have a significant impact on the outcome.

For these reasons, it is a good and common choice that people have a back-up plan, so that they can protect themselves against the possible failure of the main plan. Indeed, the failure of these plans would result in severe consequences and irreversible damage for companies. This is the reason why the human logic suggests not to arrive unprepared to this circumstance. By having a back-up plan, a person can be more cautious and serene in dealing with the main plan.

Or at least everybody would think so, but the reality is different. In fact, a very interesting research conducted by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania has confuted this thesis. Specifically, the researchers highlighted how the creation of a back-up plan is capable of causing people to become less committed to their primary goal, with the sensible reduction of its success.

It is clear that there are a number of benefits in having a back-up plan, one is the ability to reduce perceived uncertainty and anxiety, providing more confidence going forward. At the same time, it has been shown how this back-up plan may also have unknown and very harmful disadvantages. The key point then becomes to be conscious and aware of these negative aspects.

Research by Jihae Shin and Katherine Milkman shows a paramount difference: if the main goal can be achieved through effort, our back-up plans can negatively affect the achievement of the main target. Conversely, if the main goal can be achieved through luck or innate abilities, then the back-up plan should have no negative influence whatsoever.

It is well known that in environments characterised by high uncertainty it can be very challenging for individuals to not make a backup plan. For this reason, it is fundamental to know that making a too detailed back-up plan could reduce goal performances and affect the individual’s chances to achieve the main plan. This happens because we put a lot of energies in the creation of a backup plan, diverting our attention from the main one. 

Thanks to this aspect, decision makers could be better equipped by knowing the drawbacks and benefits of creating a back-up plan and be able to not affect the main plan.

In conclusion, regardless of whether there is or not a back-up plan, the increased awareness available to people on this matter can facilitate their decision-making and lead them to success.

Written by Riccardo Pandini.
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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Agenda - Uncertainty and risk of failure could cancel the efforts to achieve the goal
Riccardo Pandini
Riccardo Pandini is an Academic Tutor at the University of Milano-Bicocca and a writer at the State of Mind, an online journal of psychology, psychotherapy, neuroscience, psychiatry, and various current affairs.

Riccardo Pandini is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with him through LinkedIn.