Thursday, June 3, 2010

Long Range Planning

By Rich Kozlovich

I get a kick out of the talking heads on TV who demand that “something must be done now”! Whether it is Hurricane Katrina or the BP oil catastrophe, I think it’s clear that there doesn’t seem to any coherent plans to handle much of what goes on in life; whether it’s in our private lives, government or business, because life is so complicated.

Even when plans are prepared far in advance they are often managed so incompetently that you come away with the conclusion that maybe it would have been better if everyone just played it by ear and saved a lot of money. And the further down the road the planning is from the crisis that it was supposed to contain the probability that it will carried out competently is even less likely. The original planners aren’t there any longer. The “institutional memory” and the insights are gone; and quite frankly, things change.

I have found that when the originators of any system are out of the picture it leaves a hole of understanding that is filled with the views, values, concepts and conclusions of others...who may not have the same values as those who created the system.

I believe the primary problem is having and defining goals. This is the key to any kind of planning activity. Goals are broken down into three categories.
• Short term goals,
• Medium range goals.
• Long range goals.
What determines what a short term goal is? This can be as short a time as in the next 5 minutes or as long as 1 or 2 years. Often what defines a short-term goal is what the medium range and long-range goals are.

Ordinarily I would keep short range goals within two years, medium range goals from 2 to 5 years and long range goals is anything beyond 5 years.

How does one see past 5 years? Anything past your next footstep is speculative. The farther down the road you go the more speculative it becomes. The only way to plan that far ahead is to have a vision as to what you want and how you want to get there. The vision is the touchstone that keeps you on track. Call it “your truth” if you will. Events will naturally change the planning all along the way. This requires adaptability. The ability to alter goals and plans that have seemingly been well laid is the key to surviving until the vision comes to fruition.

Long range planning requires long range vision. This can only be obtained through a thorough knowledge of the subject matter. Having a wide range of knowledge and wisdom is important to tie these things together. Experience in life along with the historical events, along with the consequences of those events is one of the great creators of vision. People throughout the centuries have one thing in common; they are people! People all through the centuries and are pretty much motivated by the same things. These are lessons that can’t be ignored and must be used as a basis for any planning activity including in our private lives.

This requires a depth of thinking. Thinking about great many things (small as well as large) over a long period of time trains the mind. This process goes on automatically. The brain is designed to find patterns. Gathering, storing, filing, analyzing and cross referencing without any real conscious effort on our part, some have this ability better than others, but this ability exists in everyone; but it must be exercised. If we train our mind by thinking deeply on a great many subjects - lo and behold - we get those flashes of insight. How did that happen?

Eventually we will have a brain full of seemingly disparate and useless information that will come together into some cohesive form. The brain, being designed to find patterns, found that last bit of information that allowed it fill in the missing gaps and organize the information properly. A bit here, a bit there and then all of a sudden… SHAZAM... the answer!
• Wisdom is the application of knowledge and understanding. What are the differences?
• Knowledge is easily understood, it is just data although this is where the work really begins.
• Understanding is more complex. To acquire understanding it requires us to meditate and think in an attempt to put all the knowledge together into some coherent pattern in an attempt to see what it all means.
• Wisdom however, is the hardest quality of them all. All the heavy mental lifting has been done acquiring all of that knowledge and diligently meditating and thinking to acquire understanding. Why then is wisdom the hardest? It requires application. Having knowledge and understanding is of no value if it isn’t applied.
• That means someone has to do something.
The chemical industries need to understand that we need to stop appeasing those who despise us. If we as an industry are going to stand up to the forces allied against us, we must develop a common vision. That is the rub. We don’t see the world in the same way. As an example;
• Do we all agree that we need IPM or Green Pest Control?
• Do we all agree what they actually are?
• Do we all agree that they are good for pest control?
• Do we all agree that pesticides do more good than harm or is it visa versa or that IPM or Green Pest Control is better or worse for the public?
• Do we all agree on the direction of pragmatism (also known as appeasement) the industry is taking with EPA and the environmental movement?
• Do we all agree that the universities and extension departments are in harmony with the pest control industry? This includes the large universities we have been in alliance with in past years.
• Do we all really believe that the environmental activists and their allies in government and the media are willing to stop at anything less the total elimination of pesticides, the companies that manufacture them and those that apply them?
• Do we all believe that if we give them what they want everything will work out to our benefit in some Pollyanna way we can’t understand now?
• Do we all believe that what we have been doing over the last 60 years has been beneficial or harmful to the public?
• How many of us think that those in the pesticide manufacturing and application industries should be suing the EPA to force them to prove their decisions are based on actual science and that suppositions are not science?
We can’t even agree on these ten fundamental questions! How are we going to plan for the future of our industry when we don’t seem to even understand who our enemies are? If we are going to start thinking long range, we had better get a realistic vision and not some ethereal Pollyanna feel good attitude that will get us sacrificed on the altar of pragmatism.

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