Susan Schramm, Founder and Principal, Go to Market Impact LLC, is a colleague of mine who has keynoted Information Today’s Internet Librarian conference. Susan works with impact-focused organizations, including libraries, municipalities and non-profits, to de-risk new strategies and new initiatives. She sent me this article to start the new year, and it really hit me as relevant for our community. The message is an ode to flexibility and adaptability, definitely attributes we need in 2021! Susan encouraged me to share her article:

“If there is one thing I learned in 2020, it was to appreciate pencils. Last January, I wrote my plans in ink — travel plans, work plans, family plans, to-do’s.

But, like you, my plans changed a lot in 2020: the loss of a parent, unpredictable COVID-19 rules, changes in clients’ priorities, social and political and economic twists and turns, and the constantly changing anxiety levels of friends and family — all resulted in having to let go of “Plan A” and get comfortable with “Plan B,” and often even having to deal with a “Plan C”. 

So I started using a pencil when planning — both literally and as a mindset:

  • Staying grounded in the fact that, despite what I plan, ‘in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye,” all can change. 
  • Less attached to any one plan, open-handed, and actively considering risks and a variety of options as very real possibilities, right from the start.
  • Making decisions based on the best information I have at the time. Less likely to beat myself up if things don’t go as expected, and more forgiving of those who make commitments they can’t keep.
  • Focusing on being a better listener, paying attention to new information and trends, taking time to understand the reactions and deeper feelings of those around me, and evaluating how all of that requires I adapt my own plans yet still move forward to achieve important goals. 

I’ve found using pencils instead of indelible ink – at least as a mindset– can help your team establish a “What If?” rhythm that make your organizations stronger.

As I wrote recently, in working with clients, I’ve found that creating a regular “What If?” rhythm as you plan can help you and your team optimize risk and deal with uncertainty much more confidently — whether you are launching a new initiative, going after a new market, considering a new partnership or trying to get a stalled program back on track.

You may still be finalizing your resolutions, and laying out your plans for 2021. My suggestion? Give yourself a present: A new box of sharp pencils. ✏️  (And — maybe throw in an eraser for good measure!). Here’s to a happy New Year, full of hope even as you experience surprises.”

Thank you Susan for letting me share this. If you are interested in learning more about the principals of de-risking, explore the  Changemakers’ De-Risk System for Impact. It might prompt some good dialogue with your team.