Monday, July 16, 2012

Time travelling on open roads and stubble.

I like open roads, blue skies, the smell of dirt, the feeling of my boots sinking in the dirt after a rain, the smell of a fresh green growth and the crunch of stubble in the fall. 

I have a penchant for white steeples against the blue sky and the sight of an open field takes my breath away every time.  

My inspiration for the endless sky comes from the rural playgrounds of Saskatchewan. From this place called West Bend, Saskatchewan where I spent my summers as a child with my grandparents, my parents and my brother and sister, I learned to think big.

I remember running through the fields of wheat at harvest, chasing chickens, gathering eggs and playing ship on an old hay wagon that sat in the middle of our farm yard. 

To this day, I can't pick up an egg without remembering my grandmother's directions: "slide your hand under the chicken, palm up, then gently turn your hand and take the egg".  

Sadly, some of us never get to see these places as more people have moved into the cities over the years. West Bend, once a bustling town is now very small in population. Nevertheless, these towns and villages are the patchwork of our history that was borne out of hardship, horizons and freedom.

This hankering for freedom has been with me as long as I can remember, which I why I was never very good at jobs that confined me to a desk or a single activity. My work has been about helping business owners, entrepreneurs, founders, corporations and non-profits reach out and touch the future, and write about it so that others could see it too. 

That's why I do strategy. It's all about not only seeing the horizon, but reaching out and touching it. It's about bringing people together to make things happen. It's about asking why, and how. It's about seeing the big picture and making connections and adding new dimensions.  

I would love to plan in an open field.

I do bring the open sky into my planning.  I take my planners into a journey of tomorrow, today.  We stand in the future, and speak about it in the present tense. But we are not dreaming. We are stretching and we are realistic. We talk about the good, the bad and the ugly. The things that work. The things that don't. The things that will be, and what we need to do to make that happen. 

Not only is it an exciting way to move forward, it is the only way to move forward.

My next adventure is to explore the world of community based planning and economic development to work with cities, towns and community based businesses  to find their new horizons.

Gone are the days of secret strategy sessions and closed door meetings.  These days, people are engaged in the decisions that our elected officials and business leaders make.  We want to understand how they got there, why, who was consulted, what they thought and why, what were the options, what was chosen and why.

This is apparent in the stadium announcement at Saturday's Saskatchewan Roughrider Game where we heard we will have a new stadium in Regina by 2017.  Of course we cheered. We love the Saskatchewan Roughriders and we love to watch them play. In fact, most of Canada loves them, so share the love. But getting there was tough slugging. I think our politicians and bureaucrats heard the message loud and clear.

But community based planning is not just for the stadiums and football teams. Community based planning is about creating viable futures that are socially, environmentally and economically responsible and sound.

Strategy is a conversation to be had with the people who have a stake in the future, so it's not meant to hide in a board room. Nor is the point to produce a document that never sees the light of day.

This is about inspiration. Engagement. Possibility. Performance. Alignment. Clarity.  Strategy is an exciting conversation for real people, who really care about the future, and who want to be part of making it happen.  

I am so lucky.  I get to help make those conversations happen. There is nothing like seeing the light of possibility shine when we open our eyes to it and dare to time travel over the open roads and stubble into tomorrow. 

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