This past weekend, the NFL New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams played each other.
(If you are reading this in the future, the principle is still relevant.) The Saints were up by 3
points midway through the 4th quarter. That’s not a comfortable lead against the high scoring
Rams. Looking for more points, Saints Quarterback Drew Brees threw a pass to Michael
Thomas for a touchdown. Then, it happened. The moment that illustrates the difference
between planning and thinking through.
Upon scoring the touchdown, Micheal Thomas reached under the goal post padding pulling
out a cell phone pretending to make a call. In the NFL, this is a penalty. Using a prop as part of
a scoring celebration is a 15-yard personal foul penalty which is assessed on the ensuing
kickoff (the Saints had to kickoff from 15 yards further back than normal), which would give the
Rams better starting field position making scoring a touchdown less difficult.
The cell phone celebration was planned. It wasn’t thought through.
Planning doesn’t require thinking through. Planning requires having a goal, or desired outcome,
and creating steps to get there and identifying the resources needed. Michael had an idea, an
outcome he desired. He wanted to perform a certain celebration upon scoring a touchdown.
He obtained the resources: a cell phone and access to the field prior to the game. Plan
Thinking though, however, goes beyond the plan. Thinking through is when the steps in the
plan are questioned and challenged; the plan itself is questioned and challenged. This is a
good thing. If Michael Thomas had thought through his plan, had challenged his plan, it would
have gone something like this.
- Will this plan benefit me? Yes, I get to do the celebration I want.
- Will it benefit my team? Yes, they get to participate in the celebration.
So far, it’s good. But, here is a critical question.
- What could go wrong? Will any rules or guidelines be broken? Yes, using a prop in a
celebration is a penalty.
- What would be the result of the penalty? It would make it easier for the Rams to score.
- Is that an acceptable consequence or risk in obtaining what I want?
The obvious answer to that last question is no. If you aren’t sure the answer to this in your
situation, discuss the idea with people who are known for making wise decisions and who you
can rely upon to give you straight honest feedback. Ask them, what could go wrong?
Every plan should involve thinking it through as part of the process.
As for Michael Thomas, he is teachable and is surrounded by great leaders and people of
character. He won’t make that mistake again.