Sunday, May 16, 2010

Theologically Informed Natural Planning

Yesterday's Wisdom Project reading, Proverbs 16, is the "strategic planning" chapter of the Bible. Or, maybe better put, it presents a God-centered, theologically oriented, legitimacy and perspective of planning.

I have copied a post below from Blogger Matt Perman - What's Best Next - where he is borrowing from the excellent book: Getting Things Done (by David Allen). In it, you will see how Allen encourages a process he calls "natural planning." The process is informative and useful. I have, however, included one missing element that Proverbs 16 reminds us of - and Allen doesn't - the "God thing," of the process.

Essentially what Solomon tells us in Proverbs 16 is: to "plan!" But in our planning, we must remember that all things, including our plans, are ultimately from God and for God. He is in control, He is the Soveriegn, even over our planning - neverthesless, we should still do it!

Here are some relevant wisdom saying from Proverbs 16:

vs. 1 - To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue.

vs. 2 -
All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD.

vs. 3 -
Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.

vs. 4 -
The LORD works out everything for his own ends— even the wicked for a day of disaster.

vs. 7 -
When a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.

vs. 9 -
In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

vs. 20 -
Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.

vs. 25 -
There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

vs. 33 -
The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

Below is the article from Perman - by the way, his blog is an excellent resource of self-management and organizational leadership tools and ideas. ....

Natural Planning, Unnatural Planning, and Reactive Planning
In addition to the 5 stages of workflow and 5 horizons of workflow, another critical insight in Getting Things Done is the natural planning model.

The Natural Planning Model

The natural planning model can be summarized in five steps:

1. Defining purpose and principles
2. Outcome visioning
3. Brainstorming
4. Organizing
5. Identifying next actions
The purpose is the “why.” Principles are the standards and boundaries of your plan. Outcome visioning clarifies the “what.” Brainstorming generates the “how.” Organizing puts it all together in a manageable form. And identifying next actions gets you going.

As David Allen writes, “these five phases of project planning occur naturally for everything you accomplish during the day” (Getting Things Done, 58). However, when most people go about formally planning something, they end up doing the opposite — what Allen calls the unnatural planning model.

The Unnatural Planning Model

In the unnatural planning model, you try to come up with a “good idea” on this or that issue before defining purpose and vision. This almost always creates more ambiguity and increased stress because it is artificial and unnatural. And since this is most people’s typical experience with planning, they prefer not to plan at all.

(Or, as Allen discusses, they create the plan “after the fact” just to please those who want to see a plan — like in elementary school when you’d create the outline to your paper after writing the paper.)

The Reactive Planning Model

But Allen points out that the result of not planning is often crises. When this happens, urgency takes over and people decide to plan after all. But in this case, they reverse the natural planning model and slide into the reactive planning model. So instead of defining purpose and principles first, you hear a “call to action” first — to work harder, get more people on things, get busier.

Instead of resolving things, that usually just creates a mess. So someone says “hey, let’s get organized.” When this doesn’t solve the problem, someone then says “let’s brainstorm.” So everyone gets gathered into a room and the leader says “who has a good idea here?” When not much happens, finally someone asks “so, what are we trying to do here again?” — which gets to vision and purpose.

“The reactive style is the reverse of the natural planning model. It will always come back to top-down focus. It’s not a matter of whether the natural planning model will be done — just when, and at what cost” (p. 62).

Save yourself and your organization time and frustration. Start with the natural planning model!

3 John 8
Bill H.

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