Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Pocketful of Planning Quotes

A planner likes to be prepared whether it is digging into a project, going into a work session, or pulling it all together. While every situation–museum and process–is different, a planner has some preferred gear for what needs to be done: to have a possible end state in mind, a set of questions that invite consideration of attractive alternatives, a broad agenda, post-its, big paper, markers, a camera, a few stories, and a pocketful of quotes.

A well-timed quote can make a point, introduce a perspective, or ease the atmosphere and do so eloquently. The quote can serve as a reminder for me, reinvigorate a discussion, reassure a struggling team, or illuminate possibilities for staff or a board working across multiple contexts. As I pull the quotes out of my pocket, I notice that, generally speaking, they are not from planners. Instead, they are insights from solid thinkers in literature, education, arts, and business. 

Go as far as you can see. When you get there, you’ll be able to see farther. A light bulb went on for me when I first heard this quote and I enjoy being able to turn a light on for others. Attributed to both Thomas Carlyle and to J. P. Morgan, these words capture the planning landscape that stretches near and far. They highlight the importance of perspective, hold a promise that moving forward will reveal more, and clearly imply there's new ground that must be covered.

Making things explicit is a best practice in itself. When I came across this in a Harvard Business Review article about 10 years ago, it more than spoke to me; it shouted. I’ve searched, without success, for the writer who managed to distill the on-going need for clarity of thinking and shared understanding among co-workers into one brief statement. I work with many groups who use the same key words–like strategic  intuitively interactive, learning, developmentally appropriate–but have very different definitions. Investing time in defining ideas, terms, or practices, allows a group to think, explore, and get on to doing important work together rather than spinning wheels and backtracking.  

…breakthrough results come about by a series of good decisions, diligently executed and accumulated on top of another. Reading this in Jim Collin’s Good To Great, reminded me of the hard work of doing good work. Dreams open up possibilities, passion adds fuel, and both are needed. Often the most useful contribution a planner makes is encouraging a group to focus, sustain their efforts at making small changes that add up to big changes for children, youth, families, and a community.

Chaos is the beginning. Simplicity is the end. I love the primordial ooze at the beginning of projects or enterprises (Perhaps the Dutch artist, M.C. Escher, did as well.) This is the phase when potential is enormous but fuzzy; possibilities bump, mingle and merge with one another. Within this chaos there are ideas to wrestle with, open up, sort out, test for their power, and discover a working order. Not everyone on a team enjoys this murky phase, but virtually everyone enjoys finding a home for their dream when the chaos subsides.

What quotes provide guidance and inspiration as you plan?

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