Most of the lessons I’ve learned on the farm, I have learned the hard way. I still hear the voice of my father, sending out basic bits of wisdom that seemed appropriate in handling almost every unforeseen circumstance. One of his most prized pieces of advice was quite simple. “Always have a plan B,” he would say. In other words, roll with the punches, or, as I like to say, employ strategic flexibility.
When we were sorting cattle, he would insist on setting up extra cattle panels in strategic locations, just in case a calf or cow broke free. They wouldn’t be entirely free to ramble back to the pasture where it would take hours to gather them up again.
If we headed to the field, he insisted that we have backup bolts, pins and the tools needed to repair nearly everything we were driving or pulling. He made sure a fence stretcher was always available in the back of his pickup. He wanted us to learn about preparation, and to have an alternate plan when things went wrong.
I don’t know about your farms, but around our place, things always go wrong. A gate isn’t wired properly, so critters break out. Flat tires happen on the pickup while we are trying to round up the herd. Tractors won’t start. Chains and bolts break. Things go wrong almost every day.
However, if we have a plan B, as my Dad liked to suggest, these little daily irritations do not need to stop the operation. We simply slide into plan B, working with alternative tools or using the bolts that Dad swore we would need.
I think having a plan B is the best of advice on the farm. It means that we should strategically plan ahead. It means we should be flexible enough to re-plan and adjust our goals when circumstances change. It means learning from mistakes, and developing alternative ways to meet our goals.
This advice comes in handy if we are operating in the field, in developing marketing goals and plans, and in almost everything we do on the farm.
Plan B prevents panic. Under the stress and strain of difficult decisions and challenging situations, plan B can alleviate stress and help us to feel more control during every bad day.
The only problem with plan B is that it often isn’t enough. Some days we get down to plans C,D and F, before we find a suitable solution.
You can always respond here and let us know how you've employed a plan B on your place recently.