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A strategic plan should be more than a list of good things to do

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

One Sunday a couple of years ago after I had folded and put away the laundry and was making my way to the kitchen, to do something I can’t remember anymore, my husband called out to me from the coach, where he was watching television, and asked if I could bring him a glass of water (yes he did!)

Lets’ just say I had a response that included questioning his ability to get up and get it himself. The funny thing is he was genuinely surprised by my reaction. “There was a time when you would drive across the city in the middle of the night to give me a ride from work and now you are screaming about walking two feet to get me a glass of water”

What actions can make our best selves more dominant and more pervasive?

We all know that at any given moment we sit on a continuum of multiple versions of ourselves from purposeful, charming, compassionate, attentive on one end to nasty, hateful, arrogant, and condescending on the other end. In every moment we have the capacity and the choice to bring out every version of ourselves from the best to the worst.

Organizations are no different. How can we increase the likelihood of our best version coming out?

Narrative therapy research has shown that benefit finding journaling (writing out the best of your past – stories of perseverance, insight, warmth, creativity, etc.) increases the likelihood of those characteristics finding expressions in the present and future.

Somewhere inside us, we know how to be our best. We either ignore that knowledge or are not aware it exists. Stories inspire us and move us to reflection. As Gordon Shaw noted: Writing is thinking. Bullets allow us to skip the thinking step.

We have more information than we know what to do with – what we lack is meaning

We know so much – who our customers are, how they behave, what pizza toppings they prefer, how supply chains are impacted by changes in price, how to distribute call volumes. We have learning management systems, customer relationship management systems, enterprise resource management systems…. Unfortunately, we haven’t captured the highest value information - what holds the people and the tools and the technology together. How do we succeed and how do we fail? How do we decide what is important and what to give up (for now, forever)? How to make ethical and empowering decisions?

To do that we can’t stop at data sets, bullet points, and lists.

Set future corporate goals in the form of a story

At its core, a business plan sets out what the goals are and how they will be realized. Tell that story (the story that matters -of the path and the approach to roadblocks and barriers and why it's worth it – not the story of how results met expectations).

Every good story has three parts:

1. A hero (our organization exercising its strengths and expressing the best version of itself)

2. An adventure (describe the potential barriers and challenges and how you are going to overcome them – write and live the adventure!)

3. A great ending (vividly describe and bring to life what that looks like, what we will accomplish, how we will be different and better)

A strategic plan needs to articulate and bring to life all three parts. Then like all great stories it needs to be told and retold.

Erfa Alani

Corporate Trust Builder

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