REALITY #3: Single points of success can also be fragile points of failure.

When the success of a plan is dependent on a single or standalone entity, such as a particular individual, a critical resource, or an anticipated course of events, that plan is said to have a single point of success. Correspondingly, it also has a single point of potential failure. For example, a non-profit’s annual staff development programming is dependent on a single budget line item, which is totally funded by one and only one fundraiser. That fundraiser, a golf tournament, is held each year on a specific Saturday, because that is the sole day the golf course owner sets aside each year for charity events. If it rains that day, the professional development programming, a major component in the offerings of this non-profit, could easily fail, or be severely limited for the next year.

Although a rather extreme example, the potential perils of the non-profit’s single entity style of planning clearly illustrates its risks, while demonstrating just as obviously the need for alternatives. Experience teaches leaders that building redundancy into their plans is as vital as it is fundamental. They know that when any single, totally, one and only one, specific, or sole element of a plan fails, it frequently causes the entire plan to breakdown and ultimately collapse.

As any seasoned leader knows, there really is no such thing as a goofproof plan.
Alternatives, failsafe measures, and contingency options are essential if a plan is to have depth and breadth. That redundancy, or backup, can be provided in the form of expanded human, material, and procedural resources. Those alternatives provide indispensable latitude and backup support for those charged with implementation, management, and supervision. If and when needed, they can be marshaled to reinforce, redirect, and revitalize a faltering plan.

Understandably there are scenarios, such as crisis management or emergency intervention situations, when eliminating a single point of success or failure can be difficult or even impossible. Nonetheless, to the extent possible when making plans, it’s highly advisable and well worth the time and effort needed to develop, build in, and maintain options that provide alternate paths all leading to success!

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