Vision and Turn-by-Turn Directions
This post is part of a series addressing how behind-the-scenes processes can either propel or derail the vision of your organization. Click here for the introduction to this series and here for last week’s post.
I have a confession to make…I’m directionally challenged. I’ve moved around the country a bit, but eventually ended up near my hometown…and I still get lost. My family and friends sometimes wonder how I could be so clueless in this area. It’s a gift (at least that’s what I tell myself). I use the Maps app on my iPhone on a regular basis (and yes, it does a pretty good job). So you see, I need turn-by-turn directions. Generalizations like “head east for three miles, then go south” just won’t cut it for me. If you want me to arrive on-time and in one piece, give me the details.
This outlook spills over into my professional life as well. I love a good project plan. A document with a list of detailed tasks that includes who is assigned to each and when each item is due is a beautiful thing! I know, you think I’m nuts but just humor me for a minute! I love project plans because the process of developing a plan involves thinking through the details of how you’re going to get from where you are to your desired destination (i.e., your vision).
So how does planning support the vision? The vision of an organization tells everyone where you’re headed. It provides a compass direction like north or south but not necessarily turn-by-turn directions. The vision is crucial – we need to know where we want to end up otherwise we’ll just wander aimlessly. However, once the vision is clear planning helps us get there. You’re not going to have a single, detailed project plan to accomplish the overarching vision of your organization. You’ll have a strategic plan, which will include a list and description of the main programs or events to implement over the coming 1-5 years that support the vision. Then you’ll have several detailed project plans – one for each big event or new program that will get you closer to your desired future. Planning gets a bad rap for being too regimented or structured. Vision is the exciting, glamorous side of things. We need both and since vision gets all the attention, I’d like to make the case for a bit of planning.
- The process of planning gets your team to think through how they’ll “arrive”. They’ll be able to see potential obstacles and figure out how to overcome them before they even come up. You’ll essentially do the work on paper (where there’s no risk) before you do it in real life (where there’s a lot a stake).
- A documented plan that is developed with and distributed to the team ensures that everyone knows what they’re responsible for and when they need to complete their tasks.
- A plan helps team members see the impact on others if they’re late in completing a task. This should help drive accountability and encourage communication.
- A plan will stifle creativity. Actually, you can be very creative in the process of developing the plan. Build in time to brainstorm and come up with new ideas. Just make sure you have deadlines in-place so you actually implement those great ideas!
- Developing a plan wastes time we could spend actually working. If you’re in California and want to drive to New York, is just heading east the most effective and efficient way to get there? Sure, you’re headed in the general direction but probably not the best route possible. By planning how you’ll accomplish a big event before you start working, you’ll figure out the most direct (and cost effective) way to complete the project. Once you start working, you can be confident that you’re working on the right things at the right time.
- Once we create the plan, we can’t change anything and it’s stale. Of course not! A plan isn’t carved in stone. Just like we can take an alternate route to get to the same destination, we can adjust our plans to accommodate new ideas or circumstances.
If you’re a big-picture thinker, then a detailed planning session probably sounds about as much fun as a root canal. However, if someone like me (a planner) sits in on your brainstorming session, that individual can create a plan to implement the ideas you decided to move forward with during that meeting. That’s where teamwork, collaboration and appreciating our different talents come into play. Let’s each use our abilities to serve the overall vision – complete with turn-by-turn directions, of course!
How do you plan to achieve your vision? Need help with planning? Contact me today and we’ll discuss how I can best serve your organization.