Think before you Plan!

Planning for the future, whether personal retirement, professional advancement or organizational planning, is one of those topics many people prefer to avoid.  I get it, knowing what you need to know, what to consider and who to talk to can be daunting.

So, when I came across this education planning perspective while researching schools I nearly fell in love!

“At School X, even as we create a dynamic daily learning environment for our students, we are also thinking far into the future. At the beginning of each school year, we take note of the year that our Pre-Kindergartners will graduate from college and enter the adult world. For next year’s youngest students, it will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 2033. 2033 feels very far away. And yet for School X, it represents something important. What do we know about 2033? How does a great school prepare children for an uncertain future? Should we be offering courses in interstellar travel or piloting hovercraft?”

Imagine the amazing experiences associations could offer members, volunteers and staff if more organizations thought about and prepared for the future in an informed and inspired way.

It would be great if organizations approached planning in an organized and deliberate manner, reflecting on what happened in the past year(s), looking ahead at what the trends and forecasts envision and mapping this perspective with their strategic plan.  Sadly, my personal experience has been quite the contrary.

Planning for 20 years from now may seem unnecessary or even frivolous for an organization. Yes, focusing only on the future would be short sighted (the school above does teach reading, writing and math). But, being aware of what is or might impact the community/market you serve is smart leadership.

Being mindful of where trends and developments may lead and how these might impact your community/market is wise planning. Looking forward can help you recognize and leverage opportunities that arise and make informed choices. Being caught unaware of developments in your community/market can leave you in a vulnerable position.

You don’t have to jump into a full-scale futures research project to start considering how future developments might impact your community/market. You can start small with a simple discussion exploring what your team knows or can access about potential trends and developments in your community/market. Some people may enjoy this and some may find it painful, but it is a perspective you need to consider. Here are a few questions to help you start a discussion.

  • What is shaping our market/community?
  • What is shaping our view of the future? (Where is our information coming from? What assumptions do we have?)
  • Are our decisions based on what we have always done or on the relevant information and insights?

“If you start planning before thinking, you can end up with the wrong solution to the right problem.”  ~ Max McKeon, The Strategy Book, p. 10

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