Writing Ends is an iterative process

Over the years I have worked with different groups on strategic plans, marketing plans, business plans, mission statements, vision statements, and during the past decade: Ends policies. I once watched a strategic planning process that took over two years to craft a huge and elegant plan — but the final result was actually impractical and dysfunctional. Most groups spend too long trying to make the plan perfect. [If you cannot see the rest of this article, click on the title… ]

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If the process is very unusual for the organization, it so disrupts the normal business that many people feel that this is the only time to get it right. The consequence of this thinking is often to make the process try to do everything. So, it becomes very long, and often painfully odious. When at last the plan is done, everyone is relieved and so traumatized that there will be no incentive to attempt the process again.

I mentioned Strategic Planning in the opening paragraph. I facilitate Strategic Planning as described by John Bryson. When I begin to work with a group, I usually quote the great strategic planner (and hockey player) Wayne Gretzky when he says, “I skate to where I think the puck will be.” What this means is that he quickly analyses the current situation in the game (the score, the capabilities of the players on both sides, everyone’s position), then instead of dashing off after the puck, figures out where he has to go to effectively intercept the puck. That is thinking strategically. The point here that most people miss is that the plan must change as soon as another player touches the puck.

When I was struggling to write my first marketing plan, a wise mentor said to me, “a marketing plan should never be out of the draft stage.” I think that is true for all of these plans.

Each of these plans have certain features that must be attended to with considerable rigor in order for the report to be credible, and for the results to be achievable. You do need to know how to attend to these features.

My point here is that you should decide on what is necessary, do it with all dispatch, and when it is achieved, stop!

Don’t work to make it perfect. You will learn much more, and more quickly, by putting the plan into practice and observing the results.

The key here is that part of the plan should be to monitor those results, and to schedule a repeat of the process.

The regular re-inventing of the plan should not be a disruption; it should be a scheduled part of business-as-usual.

In other words, all of these plans should be seen as part of an iterative process.

With each iteration you will have amazing new practical information which will really focus your organization in a useful direction.

Let me talk specifically about Ends in a Policy Governance environment. If you have never written Ends before, your organization has probably been guided by some mission and purpose statements in your constitution as well as last year’s program plan and budget. You have never had to come up with policies that really describe what, in the long run, your organization must achieve. So, if your first Ends are a bit vague, they are still far more precise than anything that was there before.

Ends will give you powerful control over real results. Remember to control only what you must, not what you can.

© 2007 R. Ballantyne. All rights reserved. This is for your use at your computer screen. For reproduction of any kind you will need the written permission of the author.

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