Is life really what happens when you’re making other plans?

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John Lennon had a point when he sang ‘life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans‘ – when it comes to every day life, it does seem like we plan one thing and end up doing something completely different . The thing is, these ‘plans’ are often not really plans at all. They are more like vague aspirations into which we put little effort so guess what, we end up doing something else (or nothing at all!)

When it comes to businesses, it can be much the same. We think we have a plan of action when in fact what we have is a germ of an idea that we might do something about later on… or maybe tomorrow… our plan of action becomes one big procrastination (or to be more polite, we put it off to do something else).

That’s why writing down our plans is a very good idea. Ever wondered why when you write a list you actually get things done? It works the same way for a plan. Get something on paper and start ticking off the action points. The written word has incredible power and a plan of action is a great way to make your goals come to life.

So why don’t more of us write a plan? Some of the reasons given for not writing down goals and objectives seem reasonable until we explore them:

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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Objection 1: I might change my mind – this is in fact a self fulfilling prophecy.  You will almost certainly change your mind about your goals and plans but even more so if they are not written down – partly because you’ve already forgotten most of what you wanted to do! When they are written down, you can amend, embellish, clarify but you still have a plan.

“You can’t plow a field simply by turning it over in your mind.”, Gordon B Hinkley

Objection 2: I don’t like committing my ideas to paper

I love this quote.    How many times have I done this? Turned an idea over and over in my mind and never actually made it to the ‘field’.  The thing about just thinking about idea is that it is very easy to persuade yourself that the idea isn’t a good one. You work with the knowledge you have in your head only.  When you write up a plan, you can isolate those areas that need more research, where you have just made assumptions, where you know the truth of the idea… it’s liberating as once it’s written down, you can actually stop thinking about it for a while! And then get on with it when you’re ready.  There’s really is something fun (believe me!) about updating a draft plan you’ve written and getting all the detail into it so that you can figure out how you do.   You can share it with a good friend or your partner and start to get their feedback in an objective way. Try it it’s fun!

 “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Objection 3:  I don’t like planning, I prefer to be spontaneous!

This is interesting because it is the act of planning (and not the dreaming about planning)  that is the whole point.  Planning, in my view makes you consider all possibilities and look forward. You consider the alternatives, you play with how you utilise your resources, you consider options. You can consider what your obstacles might be (in business, how the competition might react).

“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.” ― Peter F. Drucker

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Final word.  Get out there. Take your best plan (and the best plan is the one you have right now) and do something with it. Commit to your goals and objectives and get on with the things that are most important to you.  Get your business moving, learn that language, travel to the Pyramids.  Plan your work and work your plan.   Life is waiting for you. Unless you have some other plans 🙂

Values driven Value

I’m working on an idea that if for profit businesses are all about delivering value, then not for profit enterprises are about delivering on values. In 2012 and beyond we may see more of these two elements combining to bring about the values driven business. Money driven social enterprise if you will.

Consumers are looking for businesses that have sustainable business practices, that are ‘gentle’ on the environment, that utilise local resources rather than outsourcing everything overseas and are activity contributing to the positive health of community through their core business.

Since their invention, companies have focused on creating shareholder value as their primary objective. Consumers however are looking to those companies in an attempt to measure their shared values to see if they are the sorts of company their want to do business with. Shareholders too are looking at businesses to see if they ‘fit’ not just if they’ll fly financially. It’s not all about the mighty dollar any more.

For too long commercial organisations have tried to show how much they ‘care’ about the community by creating corporate social responsibility programmes (CSR) with the aim of offsetting some of their less positive activities (such as digging large holes in the ground, cutting down trees. filling our air with smog etc) or to emphasise their efforts to contribute to their community by promoting their charitable giving or the volunteering efforts of their staff. All of these things run along side their actual raison d’être. In the worst cases, these programmes are often add-ons and little more than lip service for some organisations. It’s something corporations have to be seen to be doing in order to be seen as good corporate citizens.

However the world is changing and consumers are asking for something more. It is not enough that businesses make good on their less popular actions by offsetting with ‘good works’. Consumers are looking for companies to change their business models so that their core business actions change. Make money but do it without destroying the planet and without destroying ‘my’ local community in particular.

In the past non-profit organisations were the ones which, by focusing on what is important to their constituents and stakeholders: their values, attempted to address the social imbalances of the world by helping to provide clean water, housing, medicine to the poorest of communities, protecting endangered species. At the same time, in part due to their use of the public purse, they are required to be come more efficient, more business like. Commercial businesses are behaving in their practices more like for-profits and in turn, commercial organisations are re-examining their modus operandi to determine what really matters and the way they make money; in effect becoming more like non-profits. What we’ll see is a merging of these two into a hybrid for-profit, for purpose organisation that is in the business of making money while at the same time attempting to address the key social issues of our time: poverty, health, inequality, education. Is this what is meant by social entrepreneurship?

More on this later. Comments?