Friday, April 22, 2016

Long-term Planning is Like Driving

This excerpt is from my regular column, Culture & Kibbitz on February 25, 2016 at The Clyde Fitch Report. You can read the entire post, which more fully discusses long-term planning's importance, here.

Perhaps the greatest challenge a leader in the nonprofit arts sector faces is how to maintain focus and engagement with long-term planning. The daily vicissitudes of putting out fires and meeting immediate needs tends to consume all their time, energy and often resources. While it's easy to understand why this happens, it's essential to carve out part of every day to consider long-term issues. Not to do so is a fundamental mistake that weakens an organization (or an artist’s practice) and can lead to failure because thinking that quotidian crises are the only ones that matter in the moment. Such action, however, conceals the fact that organizations fail over the long-term and not in the immediate, as was the case with the Oakland Symphony or New York City Opera.

Simon Sinek
An important advantage of persistently considering the long-term is that it can keep the focus on an organization’s “Why” and how the organization meets that "Why." According to Simon Sinek, all too often, organizations focus on or get trapped by their “How” and their “What,” losing the core essence of their value. Those that remain focused on their "Why" are stronger and last longer than those that do not maintain such a hierarchy of priorities.

One of the greatest challenges in undertaking long-term planning is how our own experience can color how we consider our issues. The balance between dealing with daily challenges in such a way that decision-making is aligned with long-term priorities is even more difficult to maintain if the person is looking through the lens of the past -- that is to say, if they are not fully situated in the present. In spite of this difficulty, I believe there is a practical and easy way to model how to address this conundrum -- to find that necessary balance.

Just as we are able to seamlessly shift our focus from the near to the far when driving a car, we can apply the same shifting focus to our management and analysis at work. I'd argue that focusing solely on the daily issues of an organization is like driving a car with a fixed gaze at the hood. For us to expect that the vehicle will not crash sooner or later is wishful thinking -- and dangerous -- at best. But if it's so easy to drive a car, if it's so easy to flow back and forth through shifting viewpoints, why should it be so difficult to do this in our management and planning at work? All we need do is carve out time each day to consider the short-term in the context of the long-term and utilize shifting focus when considering issues we face.

Read the entire fully developed post in Culture & Kibbitz at The Clyde Fitch Report here.

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