Sometimes in life, we have a really full plate of things that we’re focusing on and need to deal with. And it’s at that moment, that something happens that demands that we switch focus, so that we need to move things around. From this we learn that the items on the plate are always movable–we just need to realize that we can move them.”  Rabbi Elisa Koppel

Although Rabbi Koppel was writing about life events, the lesson is also pretty valid for work. The lesson is even valid for things we view as solidly in place for the next 3 years, like a strategic plan. Circumstances change as the world changes, and we have to rearrange the things on our plate to accommodate these changes.

A lot of talk right now focuses on how a single election can change the trajectory of the country. But changes abound in the world regardless of whether it’s an election year. We see it in the rapidly changing social media landscape, which transforms how people take in information and make decisions. We see it in the swiftly changing transportation industry, in which car ownership is no longer a non-negotiable rite of passage, and people share rides with strangers instead of warning against hitchhiking. We see it in the gig economy becoming the norm for a generation.

The cascade effect of all these changes is real.

What does that mean for your organization? That’s up to you. The world may have changed, but that doesn’t mean that your vision has changed.

Your vision remains how you want the world to be because you exist.

But the world moves too quickly, and things change too rapidly, for a five year strategic plan to be viable. Even 3 years may be too long.

That’s why we build expansion joints into the plans; specific times to reevaluate. Circumstances change all the time, but we don’t always pay attention. Or our plates are so full of the ‘stuff’ that has to get done, that we don’t pick up our heads to look around at what might be different now.

Putting calculated milestones into our plans make us stop and reevaluate the progress. These are specified times when we check to see whether the plans and assumptions are still valid.

Yet even with the calculated milestones, it may feel as if you’re in a groove and you just want to keep going, despite the new information.

That’s when it’s important to remember that “the items on the plate are always movable – we just need to realize that we can move them.”

5 Questions for making decisions

How do you get out of the groove? Here are five questions to ask yourself and the others around the table.

  1. “What is our vision? Do we all still agree on the vision of where we’re heading?”

Now that we have new circumstances:

  1. “What does staying in our current groove make possible, in our quest toward that vision?
  1. “What does changing our direction make possible, in our quest toward that vision?”
  1. “What is the downside if we stay in our groove, relative to our vision?”
  1. “What is the downside if we change our direction, relative to our vision?”

These five questions are the beginning of looking objectively at the effect of new circumstances on our current plans. Instead of appealing to legacy or history or prior investments or a single person’s passion, these questions allow you to evaluate the proposals relative to the same point—the vision you are aiming for.

And isn’t your vision really why you exist?

The things on your plate are movable. All you need is the will to move them.