Wishful Thinking

Katherine Paterson, author of several beloved children’s books – most notably The Bridge to Terabithia – is credited with the quote, “A dream without a plan is just a wish,” which some attribute as a minor modification to French writer and journalist Antoine de Saint Exupery’s quote “A goal without a plan is just a wish,” preceding Paterson by several decades. Wherever it hales from, the idea is at the core of the challenge that many organizations face in moving forward. Like the wandering, forlorn characters in The Wizard of Oz, employees across the range of disciplines at varying levels of professional advancement lament the barriers to their progress or the lack of resources available to help them to achieve success. “If I only had a fill-in-the-blank.”

So there we have the dream – the goal. Fortunately, the solution is omnipresent and just needs the right catalyst to bring it to the surface. As we navigate along the “yellow brick road” of our organizational policies, procedures and systems – sometimes gaily skipping, sometimes trembling behind the mountain of work that we’re confronting – we identify opportunities for improvement through our “If only…” moments. Like in Oz, there is no wizard who is going to orchestrate all the solutions to our problems. As was the case in the cinematic classic, though the solutions might not be readily apparent and the logistics not completely mapped out, fundamentally it is our confidence and our drive to make things better – for ourselves, and more importantly for those we serve and those serving them – that will magically transform the “If only’s” to “FINALLY!!’s”

We don’t live in Oz though, so the magic that we conjure is actually a bit more tangible – magic really only in the outcomes, not in how those outcomes are manifested. The responsibility for creating this secret sauce – the incantation that yields the cure to our ills – rests with leaders. Their key contribution to this exercise is providing the framework within which the “If only’s” can be heard – funneled up or out to decision makers, system facilitators and compliance stewards. There are turnkey structures and processes for bringing this kind of communication to life that incorporate feedback loops and are considerate of time constraints while ensuring that viable “If only’s” are thoroughly vetted and implemented.

The value proposition for this kind of undertaking can’t be overestimated. Tactically, your organization becomes more responsive. Strategically, your organization becomes better informed. And culturally, your organization validates – and where feasible, resolves – on a routine and legitimate basis the concerns that your workforce describes as holding them back from making a more meaningful and profound impact. Call out the munchkins, rally the good witches and create that special place where people click their heels together and shout to the world, “There’s no place like here. There’s no place like here!” It doesn’t have to be just wishful thinking!

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