In our article about the 7 lessons for successful bargaining, we wrote that successful bargainers seek to control the bargaining agenda. They do so with a view to achieving their ultimate goals. But we also wrote that successful negotiations also involve planning in advance for BATNA [Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement] and fallout. A key challenge in achieving change, especially when it comes to the human beings involved in workplaces, is how to deal with a situation that isn’t panning out as hoped. Do you have adequate contingency plans?

The benefits of planning ahead are well recognised (just see the 373 million results you get if you Google ‘the importance of planning in business’). But planning for change in the dynamic environment of the workplace involves thinking about more than just how you would like things to play out. Productive strategies involve carefully considering (and planning for) the desired path, as well as dealing with the roadblocks or hurdles that will arise on the way through. In other words, it’s important to know where you want to go, but, like airline pilots, you need to know at all times how you will react if something throws you off course. Pilots are trained to think about the ‘what if …’ before they start the flight, rather than only once an engine or critical instrument has failed. Planning for change needs the same approach. What will happen if the union and employees raise a dispute or take industrial action? Have you planned how you will deal with those situations? Do you have your contingencies in place far enough in advance to make sure that any adverse effects on the business can be mitigated?

Leading the business through this process will be critical to navigating a successful change process, whether it is part of enterprise bargaining for a new agreement or transforming the way operations are conducted on a day to day basis. Training for airline pilots emphasises the need to understand the factors that will affect how a disruption can be dealt with before the flight begins – including the capabilities of the aircraft and the likely weather conditions. The same applies when it comes to achieving workplace change – do you know the capability of your leadership team? What are the ‘weather conditions’ that are likely to be encountered on the way through? Are there ‘second-best’ outcomes which might be acceptable? This is important, because planning for contingencies is just one part of thinking about your overall strategic direction – planning for achieving change means that you need to keep your head above the clouds and focused on the bigger picture about where the business is headed in the long run.

Our bargaining preparation map ties together the strategic, technical and legal considerations involved in an enterprise bargaining process – but the principles behind it can be applied to change processes generally. These considerations are like a pre-flight checklist for pilots – the issues you need to make sure you have considered and dealt with before you set off on the journey.