“No plan survives contact with the enemy”

Helmuth the Wise
Helmuth von Moltke, German general and
generally pretty wise dude.

A guy I worked with once said to me, while we were in the midst of putting out a fire that we’d planned for but was requiring expedient upon expedient to douse, “I think the best part about having a plan is, then you know when the plan is messed up.”

Those words have come back to me time and again as I face risk in business situations.

When you don’t have a plan, you don’t know whether a situation is normal or abnormal, expected or unusual.

There’s a nested function here. We can plan for our plans to fail, and when that fails, we plan for our plan for our plans to fail to also fail, and then apply risk accordingly. (While chuckling at the absurdity, and hoping we don’t reach a fourth exponent of failure, our own private Waterloo or O Ring)

In scenarios where what happens next is uncertain, knowing how usual the situation is, as well as how usual the unusualness of the situation is, might be the best we can do.

All of this to answer someone’s simple question: If it never goes according to plan, why do you bother making a plan in the first place?

The Troynado

Troy was one of the first people I met in my IT Career. He’s also one of the ones who taught me the most.

Troy was the network administrator when I joined the IT team during my internship at the retirement planning firm. It was an NT domain and NT was a wonderful thing. Momentus progress: True client-server relationships and multi-tasking for a windowed PC environment.

But NT was chock full of annoying ideosyncrasies that often required you to get down and dirty with the OS in order to solve them. Troy was awesome at getting down and dirty. He knew that network and he knew NT’s naunces. Well enough to souse solutions to problems that had the rest of us banging our heads against the wall in frustration.

Often it was a hardware driver problem. Sometimes an old computer would be brought online to test something and it had a static IP and that would stomp on another key system and they’d both be offline. Headaches like this.

Troy could always fix this. Usually by what appeared to us to be brute force intimidation. He’d just walk up to a keyboard, get this glare, and NT would do his bidding.

That’s what it looked like, at least.

The reality was, he’d been to war with the thing and he knew it in a way none of the rest of us did. He’d lived it, loved it, dreamed it, despised it, come to terms with it. Years later I’d reach a similar level of intimacy with one of my systems.

So one of the most important things I learned from Troy was to know your environment intimately. Not just the specs. The quirks. The rubs.

There’s familiarity. There’s mastery. And then there’s a level beyond mastery. It is imtimacy. It is knowing your system so well that you can beat on it with a hammer and because you know just where to hit and when and why, it will react perfectly and beautifully.

It is where art meets science. Messi cutting through a backline, Frank Gore ducking diving through a hole for a long run.

Late spring (at last!)

What is this? This bright yellow ball in the sky?

First morning I didn’t need a jacket to walk to the cafe. I stop at an intersection and looking up see a vee of geese, several hundred strong, honking and flapping and adjusting their formations, headed north.

On the ground too: Trees in blossom. New flowers, daffodils and tulips fill planters in yards. Asparagus and strawberries at the farmer’s market. Sun on my porch in the morning, sun in my eyes as I start work at 6.

Walking around the city in the morning. Sun streaks down the boulevards with new leaves on the trees. Mood, moving from Northern gloom to Southern warmth. Skin, for God’s sake, people wearing shorts and t-shirt, my goodness we got pasty this winter.

The Kell’s party bus, double decker, loaded with Timbers fans on our way to the game. Such a Euro city, even a soccer team. “¡Viva con intensidad el Fútbol!”

The river. Flowing slow now, bound for summer placidity and the weekend the motor boats will come out.

Things you forget about nice days. How they smell in the morning. How they’re rife with bird song. Just sitting outside in the sun and being comfortable without a jacket.

Driving to the east side. A pair of bald eagles, performing their mating rituals over Oaks Bottom. Driving around the neighborhoods with the sunroof open, gawking and shopping. Later, up on the roof relaxing, the eagle again, soaring over the ‘scrapers of Portland.