July 4, 2007
I admit to vacillating between two opinions: for my direct reports I advise, "If your strategy hasn't been written out, it hasn't been thought through." Yet at times I assumed that with an end goal sufficiently clarified, I'd find a way to do it, with or without a plan.
Being high on the intuitive side I love the zigzag of operation: "When one thing doesn't work, try another." "Failure is the breeding ground for success." "Passion overtakes plans," etc.
Organizations need polarities of leaders: visionaries that couldn't name a strategy if it hit them in the face, and managers who have no idea what it's like to fly at 60,000 feet.
We need each other.
We need those who in the rough and tumble of engagement are driven by the goal so much so that bungled plans do not throw them off. They know intuitively that life is never as it seems. Or that what is planned inevitably kicks to the side. Vision provides gravity that holds when all seems lost.
And yet, while I may grind my teeth when asked, "Where's the business plan?" I know that without going through the steps a plan requires, if enthusiasm is not balanced by careful thought, too often it will end in disaster.
The point is not to bypass planning. Rather, craft a plan that anticipates what won't survive the first exchange of fire.
Religious organizations funded by donations are particularly vulnerable to a leader who is prone to lead only with passion. In such cases leadership may, at first, get away with a lack of planning by simply cranking up salesmanship. Knowing people respond in giving more to passion than strategy, visionaries are prone to avoid the rigorous and often boring task of laboring through the process of developing a plan.
Somewhere along the way of leading, we learn to find the polarities of vision and management, and build them into a union of mutual respect and activity. Given that the first fire inevitably changes what we hoped would be, we must give no space for the argument that success comes without planning.
I give thanks to God for those He brought into my life whose polarity gives balance to my tendency to "Quick. Fire. Aim."
Father, the One who knows today from the past, give me vision to see beyond my anticipations of today/tomorrow into the wider activities of darkness and light. In my striving I know I can't anticipate all that is or predict what may be, but in trusting I believe faith will rise above the changes, surprises and disapointments. In your great and worthy Name, Amen.
No plan of war survives the first exchange of gunfire.