René de Baaij

The usefulness of The Plan: Vision and strategy in practice.

Meaningful stories are meaningful for a reason. They make our daily efforts in our work valuable and important. Why should I get out of bed in the morning? Most people do that because they are going to do something that day that they believe contributes to the bigger picture. Making a difference, being seen and being heard are the foundation of human existence. We are human because as human beings we are part of a community where we perform achievements together with others that go beyond what we can achieve alone.

This is an essential quality of any group. By sharing the common story, and living through its meaning, we move in the same direction. A shared story also gives each individual room to interpret it in their own way. That makes it ours, but also yours. The story tells itself over and over again, and each time slightly different. Due to the individual interpretation. Due to changes in the environment. And the flow of experiences in realizing the story. We learn as individuals and as a group.

The Plan is therefore not a policy memorandum, vision document, or strategy document. The Plan is the story that drives us, what connects us, and what makes us learn. In many organizations, planning is only for strategy departments, policymakers or “the top”. That there are people who collect data, interpret trends and do other useful work is fine. But if we think that strategy, vision and policy is something of “leadership”, then we don't understand the function of storytelling to drive an organization.

Managers, leaders, professionals use the story to get people on board, direct them, and connect them to your common Plan. Have a conversation about what you see and what you want to achieve. And make people partners and allies. Then the energy flows, and together you achieve something you didn't know existed.

Or don't and try to keep everyone working with detailed instructions. You will be excessively busy coordinating. Having to give more and more instructions and explanations. And more and more changes have to be translated into new assignments.

You will then end up as a micromanager who sighs, “they can't do anything themselves”. The learning is then managed away. The Plan is not a source of inspiration, but an oppressive dogma.

When you are in such a situation, it is difficult to escape from it. It requires a different view of the world and different behaviour. From yourself and from the people you work with. Whatever the reason. If you recognize anything in this story, I hope it inspires you to get started. I wish you the best of luck on your way to a meaningful future.

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Photo's and Text propriety of: Rene de Baaij

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