Plan for the right tomorrow

It was a particularly successful day. We achieved a large number of our goals, some expected at the outset and some not. Smugly, I reflect that our success was achieved because we had a plan and implemented it. Yes, even Christmas shopping benefits from this!

Like all good plans, it was not rigid and was flexible enough to cope with the unexpected. At the same time, the implementation did not put us under undue, artificially generated, stress. The destination was chosen based on the weather forecast and the desire to avoid getting too wet and windswept. The early start was a compromise between the availability of the off-peak ticket and leaving sufficient time to start the day with a breakfast, while not impacting on having lunch out. As all good military historians know, an army marches on its stomach. Meanwhile, seasoned shoppers know that bad decisions are made while hungry and choosing what to buy demands energy. That was our reasoned argument anyway.

Replete with a bacon bap, we set off on the next stage. Unlike most shopping trips, this was not built around obtaining set items from a predetermined list, because in a number of circumstances we had not decided which items to purchase. Rather it was a planned route. This took in the potential outlets which, if they did not sell what we were looking for, could provide inspiration. The route was circular, leading us past the lunch venue, following a switch back to search for items and allow our appetites to build, and then back to the train station. The return leg led us to divert into a previously unknown, recently opened, retailer. Surreptitiously, they supplied an item that we had long since consigned to the internet-only shopping list. Herein lie the keys to a successful project: a plan, flexibility and responsiveness and a good slice of luck. Oh, and do not forget regular nutrition.

Plans are ubiquitous. At home: financial planning, holiday planning, retirement planning and planning applications. At work: project planning, strategic planning, work planning and quality planning. There are any number of quotations that refer to planning: “Proper planning prevents poor performance” and “Hope for the best, plan for the worst”. Some even warn of the difficulties of planning, as in Robert Burns’ poem To a Mouse, written in 1785:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
oft go awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

The military puts great emphasis on planning, despite Helmuth von Möltke the Elder stating that “no plan survives contact with the enemy”.

The New Year is a time when we look forward and make resolutions. But resolutions need to be turned into goals. Goals, in turn, require a plan of how we are going to achieve them in a given time frame. From a career point of view, your development plan is most important and the key is to decide what you would like to be doing in the long, medium and short term based on your current likes and dislikes, what you are good at and not so good at. Only then is it possible to identify what development and continuing professional development (CPD) activities you need to undertake in order to realise these goals. 

Another key aspect of any development plan is a regular review and update. The only thing that can be guaranteed to be constant is change. Your goals may change, as you become aware of the career equivalent of the “previously unknown, recently opened, retailer” described above. The plan can help you monitor your progress and as a result you may want to speed up the rate of achievement of your goals or identify different CPD activities to further help you along the way.
When it comes to starting any planning process, I am a great proponent of mind maps, as I hope I have shown in some of the presentations I have given. So, I was quite thrilled to see the presence of mind maps in December’s copy of Insight (page 691). The power of mind maps is the flexibility of presenting the information in a visual manner. The mind maps in Insight use different shapes to link to concepts. I would suggest that you go one step further in your development map and insert inspirational images alongside your goals. Oh, and do not forget that energy-providing snack! A Happy New Year and successful development in 2019 to you all.

Please note that the views expressed in this column are the author’s own personal ramblings for the purpose of encouraging discussion within NDT News. They do not represent the views of Wood or BINDT.

Letters can be mailed to The Editor, NDT News, Midsummer House, Riverside Way, Bedford Road, Northampton NN1 5NX. Fax: +44 (0)1604 438300; Email: or email Bernard McGrath direct at

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