Strategic Planning For The Soul

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I’ve always enjoyed the adventure of strategic planning. I call it an “adventure” because it requires one to truly explore the meaning and philosophy of a corporate soul.

A corporate soul differs from a human soul in that the former comprises an entity of many individual souls. With so many human souls making up its psyche, it’s often entertaining to watch as these individuals confuse their personal souls with the corporation’s soul.

OK, I admit this is a form of voyeuristic cynicism, but look, people are egocentric. And the higher up the corporate ladder they rise, the more egocentric they tend to be. And the higher up the corporate ladder they rise, the more likely they tend to be involved with strategic planning meetings.

So, it’s only natural, as an innocent bystander, to sit in on these things and watch with delight as executives confuse their moral compass with the needs of consumers and the demands of other corporate constituencies. After they’ve exhausted themselves, that’s when I usually step in.

Let’s explore this concept of “strategic planning” a little bit. As with all else (see “History’s Greatest Quest”) we’ll begin with the Greeks. The word “strategic” derives from the Greek “strategos” and roughly translates to “general.” In ancient Greece, generals would advise their leaders on the arrangements of the battles within the greater war (the strategy) as opposed to the particulars of any specific battle (the tactics).

The modern roots of applying strategic planning to business (as opposed to military) applications dates back to the 1920s when the Harvard Business School developed the Harvard Policy Model. However, the concept really took off with the evolution of operations management during World War II. With this, the philosophy of strategic planning combined with the mathematical rigors of operations management to successfully run large scale initiatives.

Several years after selling my second business and shortly before starting my third business, I decided to plant a personal stake in the strategic planning process. I wanted to go beyond what others had done, but I wanted to employ a process with a strong academic foundation. As a result, I bought a book called Beyond Entrepreneurship: Turning Your Business into an Enduring Great Company by James Collins and William Lazier.

For any company, whether a start-up or an established firm, the strategic planning method outlined in this book, could prove very helpful. It certainly was for me, and it can be for you, too. Using it helps explain the nature and purpose of your firm to your (current and future) partners, your clients, and your employees.

Indeed, the Lifetime Dream Process has many attributes akin to the strategic planning process.

First and foremost, both require an overarching vision. In the case of the company, it’s a standard philosophy, a set of core values and beliefs. In the case of an individual or a couple, it’s their moral ethic or personal Creed and, ultimately, the meaning of their life.

Second, both utilize a long-range view, forcing participants to focus on the ultimate objectives, not the near-term obstacles or short-term goals.

But the difference between the strategic planning process and the Lifetime Dream Process is as wide as the Grand Canyon. In a corporate strategic planning session, executives emphasize the numbers end of things. After all, the purpose of any organization remains the maximization of some number. In the case of a for-profit business, that number is (or should be) “profits.” In the case of a non-profit group, the number may be “clients serviced” or “donations” to name a few.

For the individual, however, you need to dig deeper to obtain the greatest benefit. Like the Boy Scout “Start, Stop, Continue” process outlined in the previous chapter (“Do Self-Assessments Really Work?”), the standard strategic planning process works well when the application requires consensus among a large group of individuals. Users of the Lifetime Dream Process, however, can afford the luxury of catering to the specific needs of only one person or one couple.

And to provide for those needs, we require those individuals to explore their inner desires. Quite a few people I’ve taken through the Lifetime Dream Process stand convinced it represents a spiritual process. Even though I created it as a college undergraduate to help organize my time and energy, I won’t argue with them.

I’ve learned the Process is malleable. It can conform to the needs of the user in ways its creator (me) never expected. Indeed, having guided so many people through the Process, I can now say the Process adheres greatest to those who discover some spiritual component within it. Mind you, this is a non-denominational/non-sectarian sort of spirituality. Here’s the best way I can describe this: Unlike the sterile strategic planning process, the Lifetime Dream Process connects to your very soul.

Ironically, our next chapter reveals how this spiritual component differs from that of a much used religious-based program. In doing so, you’ll also discover why the Lifetime Dream Process is not merely a fancy financial planning exercise.

Party Like It’s 1959 – The Beautiful Dance of Strategy and Tactics

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The gray mid-day sky lit up with a brilliant blinding flash. Moments later came a sharp crackle. Its echo reverberated as if it came from inside a deep canyon.

Thus, were the thunderstorms of my youth. Short. Spectacular. And always worth pulling up a lawn chair and watching through the open garage door. It was only a one-car garage, but the space proved wide enough to fit me, my brother, and my father.

You know the kind of lawn chairs I’m talking about. They’re classic. The thin aluminum piping folded for easy and convenient storage. When unfolded you’d sit on its plastic webbing that cushioned your bottom for comfort. Kenny and I would often struggle to avoid being left with the one with the loosest webbing.

Best of all, these classic lawn chairs could get wet. This was often a risk while watching those wandering summer storms. Sometimes a gust of wind would blow the pouring rain beneath the slight eave of roof covering the garage. When that happened with sudden Continue Reading “Party Like It’s 1959 – The Beautiful Dance of Strategy and Tactics”

Always Open the Peanut Butter Jar First

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IMG_3093_cropI can’t remember what grade it was, but some teacher long ago taught me a valuable lesson. In fact, this lesson was so memorable I’m sure many other teachers have used it. I definitely know this was a grade school class, back in the days we only a handful of people knew how to program computers, so this was definitely not pertaining to the subject of coding digital devices. But it could have been. It’s a lesson every single technical writer must learn if he wants to keep his job.

You know what I’m talking about. How many of you have bought a kit of unassembled furniture, brimming with confidence you’ve outwitted Ruby Gordon (a popular furniture store that delivers ready-to-use products right to your door step). You open the box, dutifully sort all the pieces, and boldly open the instruction to begin the rest of your afternoon.

By early evening, your frustration exasperated by a delayed dinner, you suddenly realize Continue Reading “Always Open the Peanut Butter Jar First”