Parsonage Parables

Planning

I was an elementary school principal in a lower income school. When winter time rolled around, we were always aware and concerned about kids that came under-dressed. Many students came without gloves and hats, but an amazing number of kids came without winter coats or coats heavy enough to keep the cold away.

One particularly freezing winter, we decided to do a Coats for Kids project for our school. We got a tremendous response from our staff and the community. The coats came pouring in and the vast majority were in great condition. On a Friday afternoon, I had the student council come help me line up coats on the gym floor. We had them loosely organized by gender and size and we were so excited about the next day.

On Saturday morning we organized the final details and we waited for people to come. And we waited. And we waited. In three hours, two people showed up. TWO. We had missed one fairly crucial step in our planning process – telling people to come. The good news is we got coats on the backs of our students, took coats to other schools, and got them in the hands of social service agencies. But we were so focused on coats, we forgot to plan and strategize how to get the people to come to our big day.

Our oldest son was a planner in his playing. He would spend hours preparing to play. Not really ever getting to the playing but would spend hours planning to play. There would be detailed organization of figurines, setting up the details of what to do with them, but never quite getting to the playing part. This son decided he wanted to play guitar. He downloaded three, three-ring binders full of music and chords. When he got done preparing, he was pretty much done with the guitar.

Over the years, I’ve been in a number of strategic planning processes. It is my feeling that very few are effective in actually planning. Too often, people get so focused on the process they produce a document that sits on a shelf and never gets used. Or they are so focused on the minute details in the planning, they never get to the implementation stage. Planning in lieu of acting.

I believe in planning, but also believe there are times to stop and step out. But what do I know, I planned an event where almost no one came.

“Good planning without good working is nothing.” – Dwight D Eisenhower
“The backbone of success is hard work, determination, good planning, and perseverance.” – Mia Hamm
“All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination.” – Earl Nightingale
“To accomplish great things, we must not only act but also dream. Not only plan but also believe.” Anatole France
“A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” – George S Patton

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