So what do A, B, and Z refer to exactly? Plan A is what you’re doing right now. It’s your current implementation of your competitive advantage. Within a Plan A you make minor adjustments as you learn; you iterate regularly. Plan B is what you pivot to when you need to change either your goal or the route for getting there. Plan B tends to be in the same general ballpark as Plan A. Sometimes you pivot because Plan A isn’t working; sometimes you pivot because you’ve discovered a new opportunity that’s just better than what you’re doing now. In either case, don’t write out an elaborate Plan B—things will change too much after the ink dries—but do give thought to your parameters of motion and alternatives. Once you pivot to a Plan B and stick with it, that becomes your new Plan A. 5 years ago, working in the non-profit industry was my plan A. Today, my Plan A is Jumia, because it’s where I am right now.
Plan Z is the fallback position: your lifeboat. In business and life, you always want to keep playing the game. If failure means you end up on the street, that’s an unacceptable failure. So what’s your certain, reliable, stable plan if all your career plans go to hell or if you want to do a major life change? That’s Plan Z. The certainty of Plan Z is what allows you to take on uncertainty and risk in your Plans A and B.