Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Wisdom of Being 2

My cousin's 2 year old son had a birthday today. He received a wooden train set, which his father dutifully began to assemble so his son could play with it. He started trying to assemble the bridge, and then build the tracks up the bridge. However, his 2 year old very quickly had a train on the track, and pushed it over the edge.

My cousin then switched to a more stable bridge contraption, but the same thing happened. His son pushed the toy train over the edge of the track. So my cousin came up with a brilliant idea. Realizing that his son just wanted to push the train around the track, he built a round track and set his son up with a set of cars. The baby was immediately engaged in pushing his train around the track and cheering about the fun that that he was having.

As the baby was pushing his train around the track, he began to have difficulty getting the trains to move. So his dad did the most ingenious thing that I think I have ever seen. Instead of taking the child's hand and showing him how to push the train on the track like most would, he moved the track in a circle underneath the train, just so that his son could see the train move, and understand how to do it himself.

My cousin is also a professional coach, whose goal it is to help others to become the best athletes they can be and achieve their personal objectives. He applied the same approach to helping his 2 year old son learn who to push a train along the track. He focused on helping his son to be successful.

As I looked on, I realized how much this parallels the world of grown ups and my role as a corporate strategic planner. I have heard people say the reason they dislike planning is they never see results. But the results are not in the planning. The results are in the implementation and how easily one can adjust to the environment.

Sometimes in the business world, we start out too big with our visions and plans but we are not so good at breaking it down into baby steps and making adjustments along the way to make it work. We want to build the bridge failing to realize that all we really need is stretch of road to gain some momentum, and some time to build the bridge.

This made me think about my work. My job is to help people build plans that will get them from A to B. I facilitate the process, just like my cousin did for his son and probably does for his team as well. My job and my team's job, is to focus on the helping others to be successful by understanding what they are trying to accomplish, and by making adjustments that show them another perspective so they can realize their objectives.

Like my cousin who facilitated his son's discovery of how to move a train on the track, a good facilitator is a good teacher and leader. Sometimes we have to pick up the track and move it counter to the direction that they are trying to go so that we can help them generate momentum.

Most organizations do not have a fully dedicated strategic planning resource, let alone a team. I think the reason is the powers that be don't realize that planning may be in a manager's job description, but not all managers make good planners, at least at first.

The corporate strategic planning team is there to help build the competency of planning among the management group. We are there to guide not only the process at the enterprise level, but also at the individual manager level so that he or she can be successful in building a good plan, and then implementing it. We do not judge the manager's skill level, we help them build it. And we help them to be successful in developing a plan that they are proud to present to their boss and their team.

Like my cousin, good facilitators know when to adjust the track and shift the process so that it makes sense. That's our job.

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