What can we learn from Penn State?

As I sit here this morning I am watching the conclusion of the amazing coaching career of Joe Paterno in a way none of us would have ever anticipated.  See: http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/7211281/penn-state-nittany-lions-joe-paterno-retire-end-season.As a father of young children I am horrified by this story.  I cannot imagine the pain and anguish of the victims and their families. I am also disgusted and outraged by what appears to be a complete disregard for the welfare of these children and a complete failing of them by the system and those adults that could and should have protected them.  Finally, as a longtime fan of Joe Paterno I am saddened by this stunning and shameful ending to a career that by all other appearances was one of integrity and success.While none of the other discussions surrounding this story should ever minimize what happened to the victims and their families, I have wondered, in addition to the obvious lessons, what else you, as a business owner, can learn from this story?    I think there are at least three:1. Plan.  Things happen quickly – as a business owner have you thought about how rapidly things can change?  This story was basically unknown a week ago and now a coaching legend is on his way out.  It doesn’t have to be a scandal, what about a death or some reason for a sudden departure – what is your emergency plan.2. Plan.  Whether it happens suddenly or gradually over a number of years, eventually changes will need to occur.  No one lives forever and no one can work in the business forever.  If your organization is to succeed beyond the current leadership group it will not happen without planning.  What is your long term succession plan?3. Plan.  No one person’s wishes should override the plan.  For several years now the discussion has been about allowing Coach Paterno to “go out on his terms.”  I am in favor of loyalty to employees.  I think it makes good business sense.  But, it is a mistake to think that the wishes of the individual will always agree with what is in the best interest of the business.  This is especially true when the time for transition is here.  If you have a plan are you committed to it?Another coach, John Wooden, is quoted as saying: “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail”.  Are you prepared?