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  • Barb Bickford

The Why, How and What of Planning


Diagram of four arrows all going in the same direction.  Why (mission and vision). How (values. What (strategic priorities) and What (goals and action steps)
Basic components of a planning process. Source: Trina Walker of TLW Strategy.

Early in my career, I was confused about planning. I thought it was a waste of time.

Our planning discussions were all about tasks, plugged into categories like “goals” and “objectives” (I still get those two mixed up!) and not about Why. The Planners in my organization assumed we all knew why we were doing things. After all, we had a long important-sounding mission statement, but no one could remember it, so it didn't seem to matter.


And, after we created the plan, we rarely heard about it again. Maybe the Planners were implementing it; we didn't know for sure. The staff at my level wondered, if they really wanted us to reduce our backlog, why not just let us do our work instead of distracting us with planning?


Does this sound familiar?

After seeing Trina Walker’s model for strategic planning, the process for planning is clearer to me. It's simple, so I'm going to state it simply:


Why gives us direction (our mission) and a destination (our vision)

How is about how we’ll travel (our values)

What are the major routes we will take (our strategic priorities) and

What we’ll do on the way (our specific goals and action steps)


That's it. And I'm not going to complicate it by saying more! At least not in this post.


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