Noticing


March 7th, 2008

I wonder if people in organisations are so focused on what they are doing that they are too busy to notice what’s happening.

And does it matter?

This week I was talking to a client about 3 – 5 year planning. I suggested that anything further than one-year planning was a nonsense. Actually I believe that all but simple planning is a nonsense. I can plan what to have for dinner tonight, and then go shopping with intent. Some people I know can even plan meals for a whole week. I’m not that advanced! Alternatively, I can poke my head in the fridge and the pantry, open a bottle of wine and improvise with what I’ve got. Presupposes some basic skill in cooking, yes – but you get the gist. I can also plan a holiday. Work out where and when I want to go, make bookings and start crossing days off the calendar. Or I can be spontaneous. Maybe I won’t get the holiday I imagined: I will be surprised, probably. Plan for my organisation’s response to climate change though? Give me a break! Beats me how rational humans, even scientists, who scoff at something like astrology can put the same faith in strategic planning. It’s all guesswork. Even if it’s a ‘best’ guess, what does that mean? So what should people do instead of all that time-wasting planning? I think they should do six things:

1. Stop doing and start noticing 
Make space to notice what’s going on – within yourself, around you, in your family, within the organisation, in the world. As humans, we are innately good at noticing – maybe we’ve lost the ability by being too busy.

2. Let go of needing to be right
We can often only know what ‘right’ is on reflection. Analysis of options, multi-criteria analysis and all other approaches to identifying the right, or even the best, option do no more than waste more time. Do something. If it works do more of it. If it doesn’t, stop it and do something else.

3.  Do – reflect – plan
Rather than plan – do – reflect, or even worse plan – do – plan – do, (leaving out any reflecting, or noticing) or worse still plan – plan – plan…

4. Set a strategic compass (hat tip to Stephen Shapiro)
Rather than a strategic direction that presupposes a straight line, a strategic compass sets the general course and enables us to manouvre within that course and respond as opportunities arise.

5. It all depends on your point of view 
Be inspired, be challenged (and challenge others), have fun, discover, experiment, set self-imposed boundaries to encourage creativity – look at your world through the eyes of others and notice what you see.

6. Identify your organisation’s premise – what underpins your story?All movies have a premise (the idea that inspires the story) – often an open-ended question or statement: What would happen if…?  From Wikipedia: Most premises can be expressed very simply, and many films can be identified simply from a short sentence describing the premise. For example: What would happen if a lonely boy meets an alien; What would happen if a small town is terrorized by a shark; A small boy sees dead people. So what premise inspires your organisation’s story?

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