Whoever said that The First Plan is Never Correct is quite right. Our propensity to be dead wrong, even in our certainty, has been the track record and history of many human endeavors. Therefore, knowing that initial schemes and strategies inevitably fall short of the mark we should caution ourselves – make plans but do not plan results.
MY LESSON IN SCIENTIFIC PLANNING
In my college student organization days, my roommates and I, aspiring community activists, cherished this copy of faded typewriter printed sheets, two or three pages stapled together, entitled Organization and Scientific Planning. It became for us a sacred manifesto, surely it is buried in one of those boxes of books and documents still stocked in my garage, forty years later. This is my memory of the guidelines for planning:
- IDEOLOGICAL RATIONALE
Why is this project necessary? Does it relate to the philosophies and values of the organization and the targeted participants. First point, you can’t do this just for the sake of doing it – purpose is important!
- TARGETED PARTICIPANTS AND POPULATION
Name the groups and population sectors that you are going to involve, based on the nature of the project – ranging from participating participants, to event customers, or those you wish to impact in some way.
These are the broad and overarching outcomes. They do not have to be specific, but, be careful that they are not too general. This becomes your destination points, the specific road map follows.
- SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES
We always debate on the difference between goals and objective. Goals are general, more qualitative than quantitative; objectives are specific and measurable. Back then I had not heard about SMART Goals – but they are more like objectives in this context. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Thus, they lead us to a detailed roaf map, and now we can get to where the rubber meets the road.
Activities flow from every objective. You want to go to California: You must make airplane and hotel reservations, plan itineraries, and so on. For each objective there might be a series of matching activities, and someone has to be responsible to complete them in a timely fashion – so continue.
- MANPOWER ASSIGNMENTS AND TIMETABLE FOR COMPLETION
Isn’t this a great time for a flow chart. This can be blown up for everyone to see the big picture and commit to their role in the larger plan.
FIRST OBJECTIVE –> ACTIVITIES (1, 2, 3 … ) –> ASSIGNMENTS FOR EACH ACTIVITY (1, 2, 3 …) –> COMPLETION TIMETABLE FOR EACH ACTIVITY (1, 2, 3 …)
SECOND OBJECTIVE –> ACTIVITIES (1, 2, 3 … ) –> ASSIGNMENTS FOR EACH ACTIVITY (1, 2, 3 …) –> COMPLETION TIMETABLE FOR EACH ACTIVITY (1, 2, 3 …)
MORE OBJECTIVES, ACTIVITIES, ASSIGNMENTS AND TIMETABLES AS NECESSARY
The project coordinator can serve as overall monitor, or different individuals can monitor specific activities. The methods and timetable for monitoring is specified and agreed upon at the outset. The monitor pinpoints and prevents procrastination, by providing encouragement and support for those having challenges with their assignments. Of course, another column for “MONITORING” may be added to your flow chart.
- FINANCIAL AND RESOURCES BUDGET
What is needed, and how will you acquire “whatever” for a successful project. Not everything is financial – it is good to know who might design a flier as a favor, even though the only financial expense may be copying costs. A modified spread sheet works well in documenting your budget.
After all is done – congratulations and rest for everyone – everything must be assessed for positives and negatives. What worked and what did not – who worked and who did not. Someone has to do it and remind participants of the process, especially when we plan to do this project or something similar again.
Back to the story-line. Those memories of community activism stay and persist. Back in those cold Pennsylvania nights, through our detailed planning, things happened, at least this was our belief.
Then, after many years, after I had joined the church, the faded pages of scientific planning scripture showed up in some moving boxes. The church planned to have this community outreach event, and asked me to help put it together. Destiny.
What a willing group of church folk. I introduced this lady to the concept of Monitoring. She loved to boss people around so she volunteered, and enjoyed overlooking activities and the individuals assigned to them. Planning was tight, and the Community Day was a huge success. The Church’s minister said that it was the most unified effort of a congregation he had ever seen. My faith in that faded planning manuscript revived.
This is not the end. At another church, years later, I tried to implement this planning methodology for a Prayer Breakfast. Prepared for success, equipped with handouts and charts, the detailed plans were presented to the committee. They showed little interest. At the first meeting someone took over and diverted the focus to the planning of the menu – eggs, grits, juice, milk, coffee, condiments, buffet servers, and on and on. They hardly even discussed PRAYER. This was not going to work, I groaned.
The First Plan is never correct, because the people will not always commit to make it work. They have other ideas. Therefore, my fragile egocentric mindset found comfort and rationalization in this mantra I learned at a spiritual retreat – Make Plans but don’t plan results.
You must know that for me, this stuff is not abstract and intellectual; it is heartfelt and emotional. I am sensitive and self-centered. It is not in my immediate consciousness that others hardly pay attention to my deepest expectations – they are into themselves. They tend to push me periphery of their passionate interests. And I am left in wounded pride and shock, like humiliated and dark age earth dwellers, finally accepting that sun did not revolve around earth, but earth around sun. Our tunnel vision will behold the light, but only from afar, blinded, before believing in the sunshine of new possibilities.
All of us follow this underground and hollow pathway of conceited certainties, avoiding the brightness at the end – fearfully covering eyes to what is our guiding light. And if we are not ready for revelation, certainly we are not prepared for what is revealed, nor the blueprint, which creates new perceptions of reality. Our best bet happens when the darkness is no longer comfort and sleep, then we may have deeper yearnings for a better existence beyond night. Then we may find passion and purpose in those UNSETTLING but MOTIVATIONAL DREAMS.
Wake up you sleeper.
Someone – during a TED talk – said that great leaders inspire others to dream. He pointed out that Martin Luther King, Jr., at the March on Washington, proclaimed, “I have a dream,” not a strategic plan. The masses of people in the world shared his dream of human equality and dignity, so they came to Washington (and continue to come) but not to follow King; they responded to that inner urging articulated so well by the Preacher. However, each individual would have to work out personal plans and process – with fear and trembling. In fact, many were not in agreement with King’ s plan – at the time, even though a teenager, I certainly was not. Yet, over 50 years later the I Have a Dream speech resonates within the belly of human compassion. I feel it way down in my soul.
So let me put down the Mike, and descend from the soapbox. Other smart people are in the room, with different and better ideas of how to make stuff happen. My proposals and plans are only surface conversations of deeper desires to discover a brighter world. Hopefully, the brighter people who can imagine and illuminate the way will step up to the platform while Mike takes a seat.