Monday, October 17, 2011

Can You Plan Without Passion?

WELL, I GUESS THE SHORT ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION IS 'YES'.  Plans are concocted everyday for all sorts of things from grocery lists to multi-year programmatic initiatives and I can see where many of them can be accomplished with little reflection and less excitement for the results.  There are proponents who assure us that even the most complex plans can be achieved with short, highly focused bursts of effort.  And, indeed, that's possible.  But it seems to me that any plan will lack dimension and luster if it's written as an internal 'beat the clock' exercise or a requirement to satisfy someone else's desire.

The best planning is borne of possibility and one's own desire to marry the here-and-now with the what-if's and can-do's.  Its underlying thesis has everything to do with making aspirations reality, even if the aspiration is as universal or as necessary as getting out of debt or revisioning the work of a downsized staff.  

When done right, most types of organizational planning take time and talent to complete, but it is rarely a draining experience, often it's just the opposite.  Yet, I've seen many organizations approach the idea of planning as a burden, a maze to get through, or as one trustee exclaimed, "So we don't have to do this again for another 50 years!"  Really???  

Is it really mind-numbing or wasteful work to consider an organization's future beyond the regular board meeting?  Is it somehow inappropriate to chart a big or better future for an organization rather than letting circumstance chart it for you?  Is the idea of thinking beyond one's personal interests too big a leap to take?  Too risky?

All I think I can say in response is if an organization is willing to invest its resources to any degree to plan for its future, why ever would it not want to be fully committed to exploring the possibilities, the potential and, yes, the pitfalls that lie ahead?    Why ever would it not want to dig into bridging the gaps of what exists now with what could be?  

I guess the question isn't so much can you plan without passion as it is why would you purposely plan half-heartedly?  Why would any organization waste such an opportunity to lift up the hood and examine the engine?  And why wouldn't that be exciting as well as challenging?

Image:  Neighborhood Plan Update...from litlnemo


Pomperaug History Project said...

"Why would you purposely plan half-heartedly?" So they don't upset the system!

Anne W. Ackerson said...


Or because a funder requires a plan...


Pomperaug History Project said...

We've experienced both those scenarios. In both cases, the planning is really covering up being change-averse. The power of the status-quo swamp is really powerful!

Anne W. Ackerson said...

Yes, I've seen plenty of plans that do nothing more than reinforce the status quo. Instead of being a catalyst for change, these plans become the 'excuse' not to.

When you're dealing with a plan like that, what are some guerilla tactics you might use to introduce create change?