No matter what you do, do not charge into your board room with a handful of your own excrement and hurl it at the wall before the end of this blog post.
Your tools: three dry erase markers, a roll of paper towels, multiple nail-biting team members, and an utterly, impossibly, painfully blank white board. And of course you: the gesture up front with the markers in your hand with all blood-shot eyes on you. Everyone wants to see the show. The performance? Watching you turn the mush ideas in your head into something well organized and of course functional game plan. They’re looking to you for answers. Easy right?
You don’t have to be F. Scott Fitzgerald to overcome the frustration of the strategists’ version of writers block: the planners block. You’re to go into the working group with walls of empty white and equally empty gazes and must come out with a map and a well-defined path. Unlike writers block, planners block often involves much higher stakes and an unwavering time hack. Seeing the final goal, usually not determined by you or your team, and blazing the unknown trail to arrive there often-times feels like that moment when you have to choose which to cut: the red wire or the blue. Fortunately, unlike diffusing a bomb there is no immediate wrong answer. Perhaps that’s one of the greatest advantages of strategic planning. But as we all know, you can run but you can’t hide from the eventual results. At the end of the long day when the master plan has failed, all will remember the lines you drew on the white board that day. And the only path remaining will be outward. Out of the job that is.
Beyond the doom and gloom is, of course great opportunity. So what are the magic ingredients to planners block? Creativity, courage, and of course the right shit on the right walls. Stick with me here.
Hasty strategic planning is very much a practice in making-it-up as you go. Bring everything you got to the table. Bring your hobbies, your experiences, your passions, even your taboos. Fear not, because as the one and only poor soul in front of the room, you are sure to have the best idea first. Because your likely to have the only idea at first. Which, unknown to your coffee-stricken teammates is not necessarily an idea at all. And that’s the fun part!
Where you make your ‘money’ is attacking the white board with gust and speed. On the far right, you write the perfect world vision of your goals. On the far left, you write where you are now. For both, use a few words possible. Now the fun part: As quickly as you can, and before the marksman in the room can fire their first shot unleash your inner ape.
Start relentlessly catapulting your shit on the wall.
Throw it true and throw it sound, and throw it right between the present-state on the left and the goals on the right. On-target. Even if the present state is bankruptcy and the right is fortune 500 status, and yours is a finance institution and your greatest hack is gummy bears. Do it. You never know. Was this the genesis of HARIBO, the 2 Billion revenue dollars per year gummy bear company? Frankly, that’s the shear excitement about this process. The ‘now’ is certain, and the ‘then’ is hopeful, but the road in-between is completely unknown. There’s the aged-old Emmerson saying: ‘Life is a journey, not a destination’. This is your chance to blaze the trail of the journey of you and all the people around you. Hop on the Magic School Bus!
In my current position as a co-founder of a self-admittedly innovative alternative solution to aircraft health diagnostics communications start-up (that mouthful description was intentional for effect), we needed to spread a few thousand tiny antennas across the world to people we did not know. We had no marketing, negligible pliable traction, and of course minimal money. We drew where we are and we drew where we wanted to be on the white board. And the path between became: A dragon themed mobile video game (VarDragons)… On the cusp of Pokémon GO success and my new affliction for the Game of Thrones; this was my shit on the wall. Since then, we haven’t looked back and are on the wildest journey we could have ever imagined. The best way to fail, if one exists is knowing you did everything you could. It is knowing that maybe you had a little fun in the process. And the best way to succeed: seeing the looks on their faces when they find out exactly how you pulled it all off.