One day a number of years ago I was sitting with my late father, a carpenter and residential building contractor. I asked him this: When you are standing on a vacant lot, looking at the hole in the ground that the excavators created for a basement, and you have a set of blueprints in your hand that you helped craft, could you see in your mind the house, the finished product, with paint, roofing, windows, and green grass? His quick answer was, YES.
Leaders with vision often have a picture of what an organization will look like and will be doing years away. Five years. Ten years. They will have a picture.
For some of us that might not be quite so easy. We may have to engage others in a process of thinking long-term. Next we may have to put what we see on paper. Some people call this scenario planning, or visioning. Simply stated, it is a written paragraph or two, maybe even a full page of verbiage that describes what something looks like, or is imagined to look like, five to ten years down the road.
The value of this is to stretch our imagination, inform our planning, and take us into the future. That is what leaders do. It’s not that in five to ten years our organization will look like what we just described. Things happen. Good things. Bad things. Often surprising things. Nonetheless, things will likely look different than they do today. Hopefully it will be a pleasing picture.
I think it’s a good idea to paint the big picture, to describe it in an emotional way. From there comes the 3-5 year strategic plan. This is followed by the annual plan and goals. Finally the quarterly, monthly, or daily work plans are drawn. Do this year after year and very likely things will look something like the big picture you created in the first place.
Right now I’m working with an organization that first pictured its own building, a senior services center, nearly eight years ago. They recently broke ground and the site work has begun.
Not everyone could capture the picture in his mind like my dad. Most of us have to work at it. The people at the senior center did. And we can too. And if we choose to, we will.
For more information be sure to check out my book Board Essentials: 12 Best Practices of Nonprofit Boards