How to Hit a Curve Ball

- Tamra Boucher

Whether you’re a business executive, agronomy technician or weekend warrior, if you have a major activity in the works, it’s helpful to do a mental walkthrough in the time leading up to it. This exercise is helpful whether the activity is a major project or a difficult conversation.

During this walkthrough, envision how you expect things to play out and your reaction to the events. Then, reflect on it: What could happen differently than envisioned? How would you react if it went differently? What can you do to preempt both foreseen and unforeseen problems?

These mental walkthroughs are important because they help you to mitigate risk and to develop a Plan B. The mental walkthrough allows you to “experience” and “solve” potential issues before they happen. You’ll have a solution on hand and reduce the stress level for everyone involved.

I serve as a facilitator at a community-based leadership academy in my hometown. I typically facilitate a session which focuses on planning, and we talk extensively about the concept of a mental walkthrough. The basic premise for this “lesson” is that to move forward effectively and efficiently, you must know the costs involved. This is not just currency but also time, people and other resources. If you don’t know at least the basics of what should happen, you might find yourself in a worrisome situation.

For researchers and trial managers, I recommend using this same mental walkthrough exercise prior to planting season, harvest and any other important project. Since harvest is just around the corner, let’s focus our attention there.

First, picture the ideal harvest season. Harvest gets started right on time, there are no weather delays and no equipment issues. All the data you need is collected without issue, and everyone is relaxed and ready to move on to the next project. Sounds perfect! But, since we don’t live in a perfect world, we need to envision something a little different.

Imagine that harvest gets underway, and then the issues start. One of your staff members misses three days of work. Then the rain starts. A full week later, you are ready to get back at it, and you run into mechanical issues with your equipment.

Now it’s a whole new ball game. How do you react in this scenario? How does this impact the rest of your harvest? What does this do to your costs (time, money, human resources, etc.)?

As you can see, the questions can go on and on; but it’s important to have asked them in advance and have a plan in place. This allows you to best control the things that you can and be prepared for those you cannot.

Inevitably, something will happen that you didn’t plan for; likewise, a problem you anticipated won’t happen. Using the mental walkthrough will better prepare you to respond because you will feel as if you have already experienced and dealt with the curve balls that are coming your way. Stay poised; the sooner you identify it, the easier it is to knock that curve ball out of the park.