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What do we do when our beautiful plans get derailed?

SEED Stretch




As the Robert Burns poem forewarns,



The best laid plans… often go astray… and leave us nothing but grief and pain for promised joy.”

Stressed Woman
Goals off track

How do we manage unexpected change?  What happens when great time and attention have been devoted to strategic planning, then life intervenes? 






Suddenly our goals are off track, and our plans no
longer make sense.   





Should we adhere to our intentions anyway, having invested such time and loving care to define them?  What will our funders and supporters think if we start again from scratch?  How will our team hang together through another period of uncertainty? What if we are still exhausted from the previous phase of operating without a road map?















Been there?


Change is to be expected, folks.  We are kidding ourselves (and creating our own suffering) when we tether our notions of success to the delusion that everything will go according to plan.  It won’t. Ever.  Especially for non-profit organizations.  Let’s face it:  addressing complex, interconnected issues in an open systems dynamic, we function in a constant state of uncertainty and flux.  We know this, yes?  


So when it comes to planning, let us choose to expect the unexpected. 


At SEED we practice viewing each twist and turn through the lens of this poem by David Whyte: 





This is the “S” in SEED’s acronym – it is all about Stretching our views of what is  possible.  We posit that there is no greater change any of us can achieve in this life than to change the way we look at things.  Easier said than done, yes.  But expanding our views today will inevitably open up pathways to new destinations.     














The opportunity is for leadership teams to become “planful.”  By planfulness we refer to the integration of visioning, creative planning, self-assessment, and strategic learning as continuous shared elements of everyday work flow.  Being planful is quite different from traditional strategic planning that you have to stop work to “get done” every few years.   


Continuous shared reflection is crucial, both when your world turns upside down and when things are flowing smoothly.  


In last month’s tip, we introduced the concept of a monthly “stretch meeting” co-facilitated by two of your catalyst leaders. Below are questions the catalyst leaders might offer for monthly team reflection:  


1. In spite of recent changes—perhaps radically altering our playing field—which of our desired outcomes have been achieved?  (The team can devise a rating scale to measure gains over time.)


2. What results are currently dissatisfying, and what would it take for us to be satisfied?


3. What aspects of our long term vision still deeply inspire us, and what new opportunities might unfold? 


4. What assets do we already possess? How can we build on these strengths?







*For more inspiration, see SEED’s 4P framework.


5. What would we do if we were fearless?  What then would be our priority strategies for the next three months (to advance towards our long-term vision)? 


6. Is the energy of our vision infecting our clients, partners and supporters?  How can we better embody our vision and values in every interaction?     


7. What is working well in how we lead from the front?  What do we want to improve?


8. What is working well in how we lead from the rear?  What do we want to improve?


9. What are we avoiding or resisting?  What is our ambivalence? What are we ready to try?


10. WHO (in this meeting) will do WHAT (advancing specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely goals) by WHEN (our
next meeting)?  


Try out a couple of these questions monthly.  Consider diverse viewpoints.  Over time Your team will become increasingly nimble and accountable.  You will find yourselves creatively adjusting course, perceiving new options for action, and stepping into new possibilities with greater ease. With ongoing practice you may come to embrace change.


SEED specializes in internet coaching for catalyst leaders. To explore:

Success isn't often what we see!

“What we can plan is
too small for us to live.”

SEED 4P Chart

exhausting? stressful?  


Tip of The Month – ARCHIVE


April 2017 – Are We Dancing Yet?

March 2017 – What Is Going On Here and How Can We Work With It?

February 2017 –  Are We Listening for What Is Trying to Happen?

January 2017  Designing Your Own Website, Without A Designer



December 2016 – Are We Facing Our Fears?

November 2016 – Have You Identified Your "Strategic Who?"

October 2016 – How Are You Watering Your Own Garden?

September 2016 – What Did You Do On Your Summer Vacation?

August 2016 – Shall We Dance?

July 2016 – Creating a Culture of Philanthropy

June 2016 – What Is Your Secret Sauce? 

May 2016 – Changing the World and Reporting It, One Butterfly at a Time

April 2016 – The Right Tool For The Right Job

March 2016 – Listening For What is Trying to Happen

February 2016 – How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?

January 2016 – New Year. New Possibilities. Get On It. 


December 2015 – Trust: A Gift that Keeps on Giving

November  2015 – A Team that Reflects Together ... Rocks

October 2015 – Are You Contributing from Your Sweet Spot?

September 2015 – What Did You Do on Your Summer Vacation?

August 2015 – Emptying the Page to Empty the Mind

July 2015 – Emptying the Mind for New Insights

June 2015 – What do we do when our beautiful plans get derailed?

May 2015 – Who will Bring Your Plans To Life?

April 2015 – Planning with the Magic of Kairos Time

March 2015 – Vision Infused-Planning

February 2015 – Bringing Our Visions to Life

January 2015 – Visioning: We'll See It When We Believe It



December 2014 – Busting Out of the Habit of Critique

November 2014 – Enrolling Allies

October 2014 – Achieve Your Mission

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