“Action will remove the doubt that theory cannot solve.”
My grad students at NYU Wagner really liked this Chinese proverb which I introduced in our last strategic management class. After four weeks of creating mission statements and 5 year visions, analyzing inhibiting and enhancing factors in the internal and external environment, creating strategic directions and tactics, finally we came to action planning, implementation and leadership. Suddenly it all came clear. Ah ha, this is where we have been heading, where the rubber hits the road, when we decide what we each do Monday morning.
Participatory strategic management works. People feel ownership because they have helped create the plan. They are motivated to implement the action plan as the way to move toward their agreed on 5 year vision.
How could this methodology become the default setting in governance processes around the world? What if participatory strategic planning were used in legislative bodies at all societal levels – village, town, city, county, state, national, regional and global – to design and implement policies, programs and projects?
When I was a staff member at UNDP I facilitated strategic planning workshops in global, regional and national conferences, seminars, workshops and retreats to formulate policies, design programs, create project plans, and reform institutions. It worked every time. Participants from government, civil society and the private sector were amazed how they could come together and in two days create a common vision, innovative strategies and effective action plans that made sense.
Even before joining UNDP I facilitated strategic planning events with national government agencies, private companies, not-for-profits, remote rural villages and urban slums in the US, Malaysia, South Korea, Jamaica and Venezuela. And each time, action removed the doubt that theory could not solve.
Now is a time for action. We cannot continue theoretical debate concerning climate chaos, gender inequality, socio-economic injustice, elitist governance and cultural intolerance. We must act. We must stop the extraction and burning of fossil fuels. We must empower women and girls. We must ensure health and education for all people. We must provide jobs, a living wage, job training and credit to everyone. We must strengthen the institutions of democracy that allow everyone to vote and participate in policy formulation. And we must protect the human rights of everyone regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
Act now - vote, speak out, write, mobilize, organize, boycott, donate, volunteer, facilitate a multi-stakeholder strategic plan - and doubt will fade away.