Lessons for Leaders on Strategic Planning, from a Quitter

lessons for leaders in strategic planning quitting

Most of the best decisions in my life were the result of quitting. I’m a big believer in quitting. I’ve always been someone who makes decisions instinctively. I don’t spend a lot of time going back and forth. This isn’t always a good thing, but I believe it’s enabled me to be a team member and leader who can move things forward quickly and not muck up the process. Sometimes my great ideas don’t end up being all that great or I’ve hit my capacity and I need to reconfigure my workload, and I find myself in a position where I need to be a quitter.

One of our facilitation activities for retreats is called “Start, Stop, Keep, Need,” where we ask small groups to map out what additional resources they may need and what they will need to start, stop, and keep doing to make their big and exciting dreams come true. Without fail, every group struggles to fill in the “stop” quadrant on their flip chart paper. So much so, I’ve started asking groups to fill out “stop” first and still most struggle. While I know capacity is an issue for most everyone we work with (who can really say they have enough time to do everything?) I don’t actually believe everything we do is necessary to continue to reach our overall goals. Many times I end up giving groups “permission” to stop doing things that haven’t been working for a long time, or take up more time than they are worth.

Let’s be honest - we can only do so much.  We owe it to ourselves, and the people we work with and for, to make sure what we are doing is the very best use of our time and resources. Typically that requires quitting things that no longer check that box. To be effective, we have to work toward being savvy at pivoting and changing things up.

I encourage you to look at how you are doing your work, and think to yourself, “what could I stop doing?” Maybe you don’t actually need to have 3-4 hour board meetings (trust me, you don’t) or perhaps that really awesome program you mapped out on paper just isn’t as successful in real life, or maybe you really need to quit grad school (just me? Oh, okay). Quitting can give you space to try new things, which is vital to staying relevant and growing, it can also carve out enough space to breathe and dive deeper into the areas that matter most.  

One of the things that sets The Spark Mill apart from other strategic planning and organizational development firms is that we don’t add more without working closely with you to flesh out your overall capacity.  If plans are too vague or lofty or impossible they are ineffective and you will just file them away on a shelf or in a drawer.  They should be a guide and a roadmap to how your organization can effectively and efficiently accomplish the necessary work that will enable you to have the biggest impact. Contact us if you would like help in figuring out what you should start, stop, and keep; and what else you might need to do your very best work.