When we prepare for projects, we have a plan A (or better said a construction schedule) but with backup plans B and C. Experience tells us to plan for success but leave room for contingencies.

I saw a similar scenario played out in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics. Recall the Vancouver Convention Centre opening ceremony when the center flame cauldron rose up from the floor. Wayne Gretzky, Steve Nash, Nancy Greene and Catriona LeMay Doan marched to center court with their torches. After arriving in position, the four athletes held steadfast, waiting on the word to light the Olympic flame. It seemed like they stood there forever. There was a problem. Only three of the smaller cauldrons had emerge, and there was supposed to be a fourth.

Ms. Doan stood there with nothing to light. Plan A had gone wrong.

At the closing ceremony, the mistake was transformed into a success. Instead of downplaying the problem from the opening ceremony, Ms. Doan marched in alone carrying her torch. The fourth cauldron emerged from the floor and she finished the job of lighting it. The crowd erupted with cheers and applause. I felt the same way watching from home.

To me, the closing ceremonies Sunday evening were the best ever. This ceremony was particularly good because they took plan A from the opening ceremonies and, with style, turned it into plan A+.

I think there’s a good lesson here for all of us to remember when plan A fails. You can turn lemons into lemonade. Take a deep breath and take your time figuring out how to adapt to the situation. Anyone can perform well when the sailing is smooth, but it’s navigating the rough waters that shows us what we’re really made of.

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Merrill Stewart is Founder and President of the Stewart Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham, Ala. Contact him via email.
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