I am heading this morning to a budget meeting. If nothing else, budget meetings are full of intentions. Plans, Analysis, Forecasts, Strategies, Objectives, Tactics. Everything is triple-checked and rehearsed.
All of this is necessary. We need goals, we need plans, we need to understand what trends are out there and project how we will perform against or with them. We need to have a disciplined approach to help align our teams and make sure that we are focused on the right things that will produce the results we want.
All of this is necessary. Yet it is not enough. When we are putting together budgets, we are drawing a picture of the Future while looking squarely in the Past. We say, “this is what the Future is” and then look to what we have done to see how we will perform. That works perfectly if the Future is, indeed, the Past. But how often does that happen?
Somewhere in our plans, we need to account for the unplan. An unplan is not what you do when your plans don’t work. An unplan is what you do when you are aware of an opportunity or challenge that wasn’t contemplated in your plans, at all. These unplans can only exist if you are prepared, but more importantly, if you are aware of them. And, these unplans can be a great source of innovation that can either lead to success or stave off failure.
So, I propose that we need to have to ways of seeing or acting in the World. One, we need to see and act with intention; we need to have goals and a sense of direction and focus. At the same time, once we have set those plans into motion, we need to see and act “atentionally”; not in unintentional ways, but consciously focused beyond intention, to be aware of changes that are going on in the macro context, with your staff, with your customers, with the environment, with how relationships are shaped and nurtured. Being “atentional” is being continuously curious.
And, when you combine your goals with your curiousity, you breath life into your plans and they can take on an energy that you could not have contemplated when you just looked backwards.
So, good luck to all those working on budgets for next year. But keep in mind that sometimes the right forecast is in front of you on the spreadsheet, but in front of you when you consciously put the spreadsheet down and look both within yourself and outside the world around you.