And the ideal is not ‘having it all figured out.’ There’s no reason to feel bad or punish yourself for not being fully organized. Chaos is a natural part of the picture — you can’t pull order from chaos without a little chaos. Which is why it’s okay to deliberately mess things up now and then. Or as we say in Thriveal parlance: blow things up.
When asked the question, “What does your firm want to be when it grows up,” it’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” Discovery really best happens from the side rather than head-on. You really can’t plan “a-ha” moments, or else it’s not really a discovery. Discovery is, by nature, unexpected. All you can do is put yourself in different places or situations where it might occur and remain open to it happening, without compulsion. A little trust in Providence doesn’t hurt either.
I was reading a blog post recently about “The Big Lie of Strategic Planning.” It goes into how we like to wrangle with the uncertainty of the future by applying all our sophisticated tools and spreadsheets as a way of making ourselves feel less scared. But the truth is we can’t eliminate all risk, and our attempts to do so are a merely an exercise in futility and self-deception, not to mention a waste of time that could be used for something else. Instead, planning is much more naturally a rough-edged process where we work out the basics and in the end decide whether we’re willing to accept, rather than fight against, the risk that is inherent in making the change. This is what good business is about.
One way I’ve started practicing this in my own planning is to:
(1) Define as best I can the destination of where I think I want our firm to go. What does that space look like in the various ways I can conceive it?
(2) Identify the main pieces needed to get me there. What are the key building components that enable that reality to exist?
(3) Describe as best I can the actions needed to construct those components, realizing my list will be incomplete.
(4) Choose the one or two components to work on next, and take the step I can see, working through the unknown as I go.
(5) Rinse, repeat.
Graphically, it could look a little like this:
The key is to walk boldly, and humbly, into the question: into the question of who you are, the question of where you’re going, who your customers are and what they can be, who your team is, etc. And don’t expect to see the end from the beginning, it just doesn’t work that way, especially with a landscape that’s in a continual state of flux, and a knowledge bank that’s continually adapting.
Every journey begins with a single step, but it also progresses by single steps too. Take the step you can see, the next one will become apparent from there, and not before.