“We Are Fully Prepared”; or, Why Plans Fail

In these days of financial crisis and general upheaval, it is worth looking at why we are so often wrong when we think we are prepared.

As events [the response to Hurricane Katrina] demonstrated, we were not fully prepared. Yet the President was willing to go on record saying that we were.

Politics, perhaps. Being misunderstood or misinformed? Maybe. But at least some of the people involved genuinely believed that we were fully prepared.

We often ask – especially after a disaster – how we can hold people more accountable or get rid of those incompetents who failed to implement the plan. But maybe, to quote former Intel CEO Andy Grove, “That is not the right question.” Maybe the right question, therefore, is why did people believe we were prepared when we were not?

And how can we do a better job of preparing for crises, or even preventing them?