Strategic Planning for Dummies
Now, now I can be a dummy too, so no insults are intended. I can also be lazy except when I have an job to do that I think is significant enough for me to have prioritized as a goal that is important and that must get done.
I am a resident of two cities, Chico and Chicago, and the news about gross mismanagement of both places is disheartening. It cuts deep, and we can anticipate our troubles to have an effect upon generations to come.
It seems as though plenty of residents in both places think that the way to address major challenges is to complain or express themselves seriously about it and pretty much leave it at that. Complaining, expressing, preaching and goading are other approaches I have picked up on lately reading articulate letters to the editors of newspapers, and keeping up with civic meetings in both places. Really smart people deliver messages to the community that end with something like: “Time to speak up!” Or, “Are we going to let *this* happen?” which really gets us riled up for…what? Stewing in whatever mix of political juices we naturally steep ourselves in? Grumbling to our spouses over morning coffee? Going on an aggressive Target shopping spree to move ourselves off the pain?
Then there are the famous calls-to-actions published, and sometimes paid for by prominent organizations and/or persons who call on everyone to do something, or stand at the ready to do something, the precise details of which are never fully articulated – ever, or are provided in dribs and drabs in various forms and places as random people come up with new stuff to add to the to-do-list which seem to fall into the originally presented general category, leading to more unfocused conversation where everyone is a little bit right and a little bit wrong. Make sense? I didn't think so.
Frankly people first must be inspired to act and I appreciate that. Great, we have a plethora of movers and shakers presenting us with allegations, some key facts as they know them, and basically telling us how we should think and act in a general sense. This can be helpful. I'm feelin' the outrage.
But step two is the need to strategize and structure for performance.
Action plans, people, we need action plans! Whether you are addressing a personal life issue, a neighborhood problem, a city crisis, or just herding cats, then you/we need a plan – what we in biz call management by objective, or MBO. It is simple as my *free* attachment below will show you, and it is always effective in some way* if you refer to it often enough, whether you are an individual project manager using it control aspects of a Big Hairy Audacious Project, or a leader trying to get the masses going together in the right direction, or trying to take off 7 or 70 nasty pounds of fat. It even works if you are moving across the country to make a new life, but I digress.
For big concerns, e.g. neighborhoods falling apart, or subject to some threats, a Neighborhood Watch – and should not every neighborhood have one for prevention?—could/should follow a clear plan along MBO lines. Using the guidelines per my simple example, everyone has a role to address their scenarios no matter what the circumstances are. If something comes up not on the list, you add it as a new Goal –bearing in mind that a Goal does not have to be a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow of effort. A Goal can also use words like “minimize,” “control,” etc. so long as some measurement is attached. Once that Goal gets fully on track, you make new goals, becoming ever closer to where you or your community wants to be.
Without clear specifications, or specs, nothing happens. Life becomes one righteous bitch session, a whine and geez affair.
We all face threats, certainly, individually and as part of communities. Example: I can’t bear to think of students I know, or whom my students know, who have somehow messed up their lives or worse because of some out-of-control circumstances. As their instructor, I can beg them to stop taking foolish risks, lecture them to be safe, and tell them I care. But that only goes so far, so no matter what kind of management class I am leading, I hand them an MBO worksheet. I remind them how useful it can be to control and protect their own precious lives AND how essential such a plan is in any business context. (Why, it’s both a dessert topping AND a floorwax, for SNL fans.) I tell them that even if they think they already know what MBO is, everyone needs to be reminded of the importance of Plans and Plan Bs and the nuances of MBO as a strategy for implementation...making things happen.
As a person involved with endless major business initiatives for all of her working life, I will say without reservation: at every level of corporate hierarchy and government, many more people talk about strategy than can actually get anything done.
It’s one thing to talk about what is important. It’s another to actually do something, and help others understand what precisely to do and how to do to achieve intended results. When you drill down to the absolute core of it all, what we each want is not so different, so the more people you can get gathered around the page to solve – or even start to approach—a problem, the better.
Confidential to Chico City Council and meeting attendees: No rant, apology, apologia, profanity or expression of frustration can save us now, but there is yet hope! Compared to Chicago, you are right-sized to act.
If we can understand the basics of actually getting the answers and results we need, we will then be ready for the next steps: Plan-On-A-Page Project Management, followed by Communication for Smarties.
*Plans do fail, but only in terms of present form. Based on the learning opportunities all well formulated plans provide, it is possible to take that filled-in MBO sheet, analyze it, make adjustments, and still get yourself headed in a positive direction.