Best Laid Plans
The Tyranny of Unintended Consequences and How to Avoid Them
by William A. Sherden
February 2011, 208pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-38531-5
$49, £37, 43€, A67
eBook Available: 978-0-313-38532-2
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Marketing methods intended to increase customer retention that drive clients to competitors. Efforts to prevent riots that cause them to happen. Countries that acquire weapons to increase their security but actually heighten their risk. Unintended consequences often occur, but there are ways to prevent them—if you understand the social mechanisms at play.

This intriguing and informative probe into the dynamics of unintended consequences reveal the real reasons our best laid plans often go askew in our political, business, and personal lives.

Historian and author Daniel Boorstin noted, “The unintended consequences of man’s enterprises have and will always be more potent, more widespread, and more influential than those he intended.” Today, a Google web search for “unintended consequences” summons nearly two million pages citing the unexpected impacts of government policies, new technologies, management decisions, and the actions of individuals. Unfortunate unintended consequences are becoming increasingly problematic as our world becomes globally and electronically interconnected, causing the results of our decisions to resonate across the globe.

In Best Laid Plans, the author examines how any action can have cascading impacts across time, place, and sector, explaining the eight social mechanisms of unintended consequences that complicate matters and often defeat best laid plans. This book will be of great interest to managers, analysts, researchers, or other employees working for businesses, governments, and not-for-profit organizations, as well as general nonfiction readers who delight in learning about how the world works.


  • 60 case studies clearly illustrate how unintended consequences occurred in current and historical events
  • Various charts and figures clarify key points and information
  • A bibliography contains 250 books and articles referenced in the book
William A. Sherden is adjunct professor at the International Business School at Brandeis University, Waltham, MA. His published works include The Fortune Sellers: The Big Business of Buying and Selling Predictions and Market Ownership: The Art & Science of Becoming #1.


“This book is a must read for anyone engaged in personal, organizational or global planning. . . . Sherden’s deep research and smooth writing style bring numerous case examples to life. One after another he presents the fascinating realities behind both historical and contemporary events that keep the reader totally engaged. Drawing lessons from these vignettes, Sherden offers five steps we can take to avoid the destructive power of the unintended consequence.”—Richard Whiteley, Author of The Customer Driven Company, Cofounder of Forum Corporation, and CEO of The Whitely Group

"Sherden explores the poorly understood term, 'unintended consequences,' and reveals compellingly its power and impact on human history. Broad in sweep and generous in anecdote, Best Laid Plans is an outstanding read." —Kevin Ryan, PhD, Founding Director of the Center for Character and Social Responsibility, Boston University
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