Is Your Strategic Plan Like a Wedding or a Marriage?

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Strategic Plan Proposal

In my previous career, I trained and worked as a wedding celebrant. Strange role, I know, but it was extremely rewarding.

A wedding is a significant moment in a couple’s life — a “rights-of-passage” ceremony that forever changes a relationship. To conduct a wedding is to walk alongside two people during a time of great hope and flux. It is to help them dream, plan and if all goes well, create a memory that lasts a lifetime.

That said, a wedding is just one day. What follows is what we call “marriage.”

Most couples spend an enormous amount of time and energy planning their wedding day, yet little time preparing for marriage. They research gardens, florists, cakes and catering. They shop for rings, suits and dresses. They hire musicians, create song lists, design invitations and order wine. It can take months or even years to plan a wedding, often at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars. Then, all of a sudden, the day is gone — kaput — and couples are left wondering, what next?

Marriage, in contrast, is where the real stuff happens. (I’ve been married for fifteen wonderful years and am still learning!) As a pre-marriage facilitator, I regularly encourage couples to spend as much time preparing for marriage as they do their wedding. How will they budget and manage money over time? How will they navigate extended family tensions? How will they manage social expectations, when one is an introvert and the other is an extrovert? How will they prepare for sleepless nights and exhaustion, or a change in libido, when kids enter the picture? How will they schedule and keep date nights? How will they communicate when life is busy, instead of ‘growing apart’?

Not surprisingly, many people resist these types of discussions before their wedding day. They are tough questions and it’s far more exciting to pick a bridesmaid’s dress! Research, however, suggests that couples who enter a process to prepare for marriage are statistically more likely to thrive long term.[1] They are more likely to identify road bumps before they happen and are better equipped to navigate the high’s and lows of a life-long relationship.

As a productivity consultant, engaged in developing and executing strategic plans, I see a similar phenomenon in the workplace.

Leadership teams love to create a strategic plan (aka, the wedding), but fail to pay enough attention to how they will execute that plan over time (the marriage!). More often than not, they pay big money and expend energy creating a complex, colourful document with bells and whistles. They falsely assume that the work is done when the plan is approved, laminated, uploaded, and communicated using PowerPoint (could this be the honeymoon?). Of course, in reality, then plan has not even begun!

At Spacemakers®, we believe that executing and implementing strategy is as important, if not more important, than the plan itself. “Doing” the plan — actually making it a reality — is so important that it must shape the entire planning process from beginning to end. How do leaders listen to their staff and build ownership during the planning process? How do teams keep their plan simple, memorable, and to the point? How do managers create space to allow ‘out of the box’ ideas to emerge? How will teams review and progress their plan habitually, to keep it front and centre as the years go by? These are big questions that need to be answered before any plan is published. Execution is a critical organising principle – make sure that you design your planning process with the end in mind!

Weddings are fun, yet in my experience, marriage beats a wedding hands down. Marriage, despite the bad press, is one of the best adventures that a person can ever undertake. Over the years, my relationship with my wife has become deeper, richer, more complex and more rewarding than I could ever have imagined. We’ve laughed. We’ve cried. We’ve fought. We’ve forgiven. We’ve built a family and forged a community. There are parallels between work and life. Start with the end in mind, tackle the hard stuff, enter a process and enjoy the journey!

If you need help in developing or executing your next strategic plan, feel free to contact us at Spacemakers®. We have a process to help guide teams of various sizes to develop a plan on a page that actually gets done.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Numerous research studies demonstrate the validity of pre-marriage counselling and facilitation, such as the PREPARE course. Higher PREPARE scores are predictive of long-term marital success. In one 3-year longitudinal study, PREPARE scores from 3-months before marriage predicted with 80-90% accuracy which couples separated and divorced, and which remained happily married. Pre-marriage training is also predictive of increased PREPARE scores, increasing longer-term marital satisfaction and relational vibrancy. See research links here: http://www.prepare-enrich.com.au/research/ 
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