Case Study: Contingency

Gettysburgh MapTeams must work well together, but they also must plan well together. Surprises can come up in any business, and can blindside the team that hasn’t asked, “What if?”

Learning Objective: For a leader’s 12-member Leadership Team (direct reports) to build skills and perspectives on contingency planning and scenario planning.

Business Context: Unanticipated factors had caused the company to miss plan – because the things happen!

Content: “Stars In Their Courses: The Gettysburg Campaign” by Shelby Foote

Meeting Context: The meeting took place in Gettysburg, PA at a little hotel in the square. Attendees were given Foote’s book as pre-reading.

The group discussed “Stars In Their Courses” and then had a military historian physically take them through the three days of the Battle of Gettysburg. Three days of the battle, organized into three 90-minute blocks, with 30-60 minutes of debrief after each.

The meeting was about who you wanted to be. Lee or Meade. Hill or Longstreet (who had a different plan, albeit one not utilized).

When we got teams together, we’d always start with “How are we doing against Objectives X, Y and Z?” And we’d use those discussions to talk about how we were doing. We’d talk about where we were on and off track. There’s a need to constantly recalibrate to ensure we can achieve our plans.

This group was just stuck in the idea of “just keep marching.” But it’s important to realize that there’s more than one roll of the dice—just keep adjusting your plan. It’s about contingency planning with excellence of execution. You can have a great plan, but you have to execute it well.

Educate the Mind:
We utilized the reading of “Stars In Their Courses” and the tour of the battlefield to ground the team on the three days of Gettysburg, including the strategies and counter-strategies of both sides and the ultimate success of the Union “Fishhook” defense.

Inspire the Hearts: The battlefield itself touched everyone in terms of the human drama that played out in this sleepy Pennsylvania town. The opportunity to stand and walk in the actual location of such drama allowed all of us to feel close to the history of the place. Long after the meeting whenever an associate said, “Gettysburg” the gravity of the moment and the team experience instantly became real again.

Direct the Hands & Feet: The team utilized the opportunity to work on scenario planning for major customer plans. Developing “what if” scenarios and thinking through not only their response but also the customer’s likely responses, thus creating counter-responses…a first for the team.