The villains in Chick Tracts can sometimes fall into this, such as the gay rights group who wanted to make sure their children wouldn't be bullied by infecting the Red Cross' donor blood supply (which was kept in a huge vat) with AIDS.
The evil organization F.AN.G. (Fear, ANger, Greed) from Disney Adventures's Spy Kids comics runs on this. On one issue, they stole the heads on Mt. Rushmore to mount them on a giant robot body, only to find they had no plan for what the giant robot was supposed to do afterward. In another issue, they planned to destroy all the cereal in the world so that their 1 million dollar cereal "Fang Flakes" would create a cereal monopoly. How did they plan to destroy all the cereal in the world? They forgot to figure out how.
Lampshaded by Tony in that same scene. "Right, got its attention. What the hell was step 2?"
Live Action TV
In the Friends episode "The One In Vegas", Joey is convinced he's found his "identical hand twin", and that this will make his fortune. Somehow.
At a Dunder-Mifflin shareholder meeting, Michael attempts to pacify the crowd with a 45-day, 45-point plan for staving off bankruptcy, to be generated during a 15 minute break.
Day 45, company saved. Day 44, go. What do we got?
The business plan of the short-lived Michael Scott Paper Company basically amounted to this too, considering they had no real capital or paper to sell. (At some point they got some, although it's not explained how).
Saturday Night Live had a sketch where a bank just made change, nothing else. When asked how they managed to stay in business, the spokesman replied, "Volume".
In the 4th season of Parks and Recreation , Tom Haverford's friend and partner in get rich schemes Jean-Ralphio recieves a large sum of money. The two quickly beginn to create their own business called Entertainmnet Company 720. Their goal being to have a large office filled with people who's only purpose is to entertain them, have a lot of merchandise with their name on it and being able to easily hand out expensive gifts like I-Pads to anyone who visit them. Their idea being that a successfull company has such things and to be successfull aswell they just need those. What they completely ignored was the middle step that involves actualy making money or knowing what their company is supposed to do at all.
The format has become a bit of a meme in certain parts of the internet. Can be combined with almost anything, and be any length as long as the last two steps are "????" and "Profit". Example using tropes:
"I think you should be more explicit here in step two"
This was a running gag in Doonesbury comics during the Dot Com Boom. A character started a Dot Com company and began Step One by finding venture capitalists to invest in his company. He was so successful at this that he never got around to figuring out what Step Two was supposed to be. To his great amazement the company actually developed a Step Two on its own but he does not find out what they were actually selling until the very end when Microsoft forced them out of business.
In FoxTrot, Jason also had at least one arc where his plan amounted (as many other examples here) to Step 1: Create a Dot Com company; Step 3: Profit when investors come running.
Trolls on the Runescape forums use this quite a bit on "How do I make money" threads. Step 1. Cut willows. Step 2. ? Step 3: Profit (Willow logs are very cheap, around 13 GP each, and as a reference, 2 million GP is considered broke by many players.)
Recordshop Tycoon references this trope: Under the "The Office > Marketing Menu > Prices", you see a convenient illustration: Step One: Karma and Average Selling Price. Step 2: ? Step 3: Profit
Utsuho, the Final Boss of Touhou Chireiden ~ Subterranean Animism, has one of these as her "grand plan", with Step One being "Reignite the Hell of Blazing Fires" and Step Three being "Take Over the World!". Entirely justified though, as even before she went mad with power she was deeply stupid.
This applies to pretty much every Touhou game.
Step 1: See a problem Step 2: Blow up youkai Step 3: ?? Step 4: Profit (or lack of...)
Dr. Ned in Borderlands indicates he is going to do evil for the sake of profit. Evil seems to be raising the undead for recreational use. Later on he admits that step two never materialized and he's broke.
The Sims Medieval has a quest in which one of your heroes intends to learn the secret of creating life. The description ends with "...And somehow profit from it".
The Apprentice from Orcs Must Die! sometimes says this gem when placing a coinforge, an item that increase the monetary reward of any mob killed on it:
"Step 1, Put down coinforge. Step 2: Something with orcs but I forget. Step 3: Profit!
A long-running joke among those who know Resident Evil is that the Evil Plan of the Umbrella Corporation is always:
Phase 1: Zombies!
Phase 2: ???
Phase 3: Profit.
In Dragon Age II, Isabela needs to get rid of the crime boss Castillion before he has her killed, and hits on the idea of using his subordinate Velasco to get at him. She sums up her initial plan thusly:
Isabela: Step one, we go to Velasco. Step two... something exciting happens. Step three, profit.
In this Red Mage's escape plan consists entirely of "Jail, Action/Hijinx, Freedom!"
Another plan is a variant on the theme. He reasons that the logic of his previous plans was their flaw (since a failure at any one step meant the whole thing fell apart), so he devises a plan utterly devoid of logic; that way, even if one step goes tits up, it didn't actually have any connection to the next step, so the plan as a whole could soldier merrily forward regardless.
Step 1 : Jean explains to Sarah what really happens
Step 2 : Jean persuades Sarah that I need to leave for good
Step 3 : How the hell do we get from there...
Step 4 : ... Getting me and Sarah back together again.
The Underpants Gnomes from South Park, as seen in the image (and thus are the formerTrope Namer from when the trope was called Step Three: Profit). They go around at night collecting vast quantities of underwear, which they will use to profit. Somehow. As shown, the chart has become a Memetic Mutation. Note the element of Beam Me Up, Scotty!. Every gnome figured that some of the other gnomes knew what step two was, and that it was being kept secret for a very, very good reason, which is why they didn't question it.
Some of the plots of the Legion of Doom in Super Friends ran this way. They were foiled every time, of course, but their schemes would include an often equally expensive escape plan.
They would go to some ridiculous expense to get some item that would brainwash the Super Friends into walking into a volcano, thus clearing the way for the Legion's conquest of the world or something.
One time, Cheetah and Bizarro turned people into Cheetah- and Bizarro-people, for no adequately explored reason.
Parodies this trope by having Eddy start a smalltime corporation with the cul-de-sac kids that was only focused on "going up". Once people realize that the corporation was basically doing nothing, and that everybody was working without pay, everybody left except the Eds (which of course, is Truth in Television).
In the episode where Ed makes a scam, the plan goes from zany to ridiculous and disjointed.
Phase 1: Put the rock on the 'X' 'Q'.
Phase 2: Dress Eddy and Double D outlandishly.
Phase 3: Have Double D give Eddy the pancakes.
Phase 4: Paint a cement mixer like an Aztec temple.
Phase 5: Steal teddy bear.
Phase 6: Bite into teddy bear's stomach.
Phase 7: ???
Phase 8: Curse of Evil Tim (Profit?)
Many of Eddy's plans could probably be summed up as this, especially ones where he actually seems to go out of his own way to sabotage, such as randomly putting a bowling pin in a cream puff they were selling (to make it bigger maybe?)
In one episode of Super Chicken, a villain named "The Geezer" attempts to steal the geyser "Old Facefull" from Yellowstone National Park. The narrator questions his motivation:
Geezer: There's a million things you can do with a geyser!
Narrator: Such as?
Geezer: Uh ... I'll think of something!
Eventually, The Geezer does come up with a use for Old Faceful: He opens a car wash.
The Lobe once had a machine that could turn people into clowns, which he thought would help him take over the world because "Everyone likes clowns". Freakazoid ends up just talking him out of it by pointing out that no one likes clowns. After a dejected Lobe leaves, Freakazoid admits that it was an awesome plan.
Brain's plans from Pinky and the Brain usually follow this route. He explains them as "implement some bizarre technological gizmo and rise to power in the ensuing confusion", never actually explaining how he was planning to seize power.
Phineas and Ferb: Doofenshmirz' plans to take over the Tri-State Area often involves publicly humiliating his brother, the mayor, hoping this will create a power vacuum that he can use to his advantage. An example:
Homer Simpson has probably run through quite a few, but usually they're more Zany Schemes than this; however, he once ran an online business whose business plan was something like:
Phase 1: The Internet.
Phase 2: ???
Phase 3: Profit. (Still gets bought out by Microsoft, though.)
The internet dot com bubble basically ran on this exact plan, pets.com being the poster child of an ill-defined business plan relying on the mystical powers of the internet to make money when conventional business savvy dictated to look elsewhere. In fact, one business magazine cover questioning the viability of this model at the time even used the Simpsons as an illustration, showing Bart wearing a T-shirt advertising his internet start-up (bucks2bart.com) and Mr. Burns hefting a huge sack of money he was evidently planning to invest in it.
When Artie Ziff went broke, his explanation started with him telling he was dot com billionaire and he was quickly told he didn't have to explain anything else.
Homer tries to remember the fire safety plan at the nuclear power plant: "When the fire starts to burn, there's a lesson you must learn. Something something, then you'll see: You'll avoid catastrophe! D'oh!"
One of the MIT Mystery Hunt puzzles in 2008 featured this as a puzzle device.
This tweet from Keith Hennessey, George W. Bush's former director of the National Economic Council, had this to say about Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) strategy to "defund Obamacare" by forcing a government shutdown in 2013: