Strategic Planning for the Soul

I’ve always enjoyed to adventure of strategic planning. I call it an “adventure” because it requires one to truly explore the meaning and philosophy of a corporate soul. A corporate soul differs from a human soul in that the former comprises an entity of many individual souls. With so many human souls making up its psyche, it’s often entertaining to watch as these individuals confuse their personal souls with the corporation’s soul.

OK, I admit this is a form of voyeuristic cynicism, but, look, people are egocentric, and the higher up the corporate ladder they rise, the more egocentric they tend to be – and the higher up the corporate ladder they rise, the more likely they tend to be involved with strategic planning meetings. So it’s only natural, as an innocent bystander, to sit in on these things and watch with delight as executives confuse their moral compass with the needs of consumers and the demands of other corporate constituencies. After they’ve exhausted themselves, that’s when I usually step in.

Let’s explore this concept of “strategic planning” a little bit. As with all else (see “History’s Greatest Quest”) we’ll begin with the Greeks. The word “strategic” derives from the Greek “strategos” and roughly translates to “general.” In ancient Greece, generals would advise their leaders on the arrangements of the battles within the greater war (the strategy) as opposed to the particulars of any specific battle (the tactics). The modern roots of applying strategic planning to business (as opposed to military) applications dates back to the 1920s when the Harvard Business School developed the Harvard Policy Model. However, the concept really took off with the evolution of operations management during World War II. With this, the philosophy of strategic planning combined with the mathematical rigors of operations management to successfully run large scale initiatives.

Several years after selling my second business and shortly before starting my third business, I decided to plant a personal stake in the strategic planning process. I wanted to go beyond what others had done, but I wanted to employ a process with a strong academic foundation. As a result, I bought a book called Beyond Entrepreneurship: Turning Your Business into an Enduring Great Company by James Collins and William Lazier. For any company, whether a start-up or an established firm, the strategic planning method outlined in this book, could prove very helpful. It certainly was for me as using it helped explain the nature and purpose of my new firm to my (future) partners, my clients and employees.

Indeed, the Lifetime Dream Process has many attributes akin to the strategic planning process. First and foremost, both require an overarching vision. In the case of the company, it’s a standard philosophy, a set of core values and beliefs. In the case of an individual or a couple, it’s their moral ethic or personal Creed and, ultimately, the meaning of their life. Second, both utilize a long-range view, forcing participants to focus on the ultimate objectives, not the near-term obstacles or short-term goals.

But the difference between the strategic planning process and the Lifetime Dream Process is as wide as the Grand Canyon. In a corporate strategic planning session, executives emphasize the numbers end of things. After all, the purpose of any organization remains the maximization of some number. In the case of a for-profit business, that number is (or should be) “profits.” In the case of a non-profit group, the number may be “clients serviced” or “donations” to name a few.

For the individual, however, we need to dig deeper to obtain the greatest benefit. Like the Boy Scout “Start, Stop, Continue” process outlined in the previous chapter (“Do Self-Assessments Really Work?”) the standard strategic planning process works well when the application requires consensus among a large group of individuals. Users of the Lifetime Dream Process, however, can afford the luxury of catering to the specific needs of only one person or one couple.

And to provide for those needs, we need those individuals to explore their inner desires. Quite a few people I’ve taken through the Lifetime Dream Process stand convinced it represents a spiritual process. Even though I created it as a college undergraduate to help organize my time and energy, I won’t argue with them. I’ve learned the Process is malleable. It can conform to the needs of the user in ways its creator (me) never expected. Indeed, having guided so many people through the Process, I can now say the Process adheres greatest to those who discover some spiritual component within it. Mind you, this is a non-denominational/non-sectarian sort of spirituality. Here’s the best way I can describe this: Unlike the sterile strategic planning process, the Lifetime Dream Process connects to your very soul.

Ironically, our next chapter reveals how this spiritual component differs from that of a much used religious-based program. In doing so, you’ll also discover why the Lifetime Dream Process is not merely a fancy financial planning exercise.