Moving Beyond Hopes and Dreams to Plans and Realities

Recently, I’ve been working with a non-profit board that is trying to reshape the organization’s mission.  While they have a lot of hopes for the future and what the organization will accomplish, they find themselves spinning in conversation with no action forward.  Without a plan, these will remain conversations of hopes and dreams.  What are your hopes and dreams for your team and organization?  What is your plan to achieve those aspirations?

Let’s say you have a dream of retiring.  You hope that you can retire early and travel the world.  You can spend your time imagining all the places you would like to see but that will not bring you closer to this vision.  You realize that you might need a financial plan to help you accomplish this goal.  Your dreams are not lost when you create a plan because a plan helps you gain perspective of what you need to do. .  I have a good friend that wants to live in Italy for six months upon retirement, a similar dream for many people.  It is an awesome dream but, in her case, I know that I will be visiting her Italian villa. She will plan to make it happen.  Not only will she think ahead and plan the finances needed but she will also plan other details needed to turn this dream into a reality.  Planning doesn’t squash the dream; it brings it to life.

So why do many of us not achieve our dreams?  The first question to ask is “What is our plan?”  When you dream of what your team could be, how does your plan support that?  What aspects of your plan are working, and which ones are no longer valid?  A plan can help you understand not only what you need to do but provide a baseline for performance.  It can help you assess the gap between actual and expected. Once the gap is defined, the team can engage in experiments to close the gap.  If we don’t have a goal, how do we know what experiments to run?

Putting your dreams into a plan may not be enough.  Is this your dream, or a shared vision across the organization? In the case of my friend, her dream of Italy is shared by her husband.  It is something that they are both working towards.  You probably couldn’t imagine that she would have this dream and not share it with her spouse, but how many of us do this at work?  In my friend’s case, there had to be a mutual desire not only to live abroad for a period of time but to retire in the first place. How do you create a common vision for your team?  What does your organization need?  How do these needs vary across the organization?  For my friend, her dream is to be immersed in the culture and learn culinary secrets. For my friend’s spouse, his need might be to live in a warm climate with picturesque landscapes.  Where do your dreams overlap with others and where do they differentiate?  What is the common ground?

Only when we have a common vision forward and a shared plan can we maximize our teams.  Without these, our team’s actions and thus results will be fragmented.

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