A hopeful neighborhood is one where neighbors create and work a plan together in pursuit of the common good of their neighborhood.
But if you’ve ever made and worked a plan, then you know the sober (and perhaps exciting) truth of the old Robert Burns maxim: The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. There are many reasons a plan can go awry, but sometimes it’s simply because the situation on the ground has changed.
Once a small group of neighbors begin working their plan to make a difference in their neighborhood it’s important that they keep an eye on their surroundings and their circumstances. There’s a simple model that can help any group do just that.
In the 1960s, a management consultant named Albert Humphrey at the Stanford Research Institute came up with a helpful model that any team can use to make wise adjustments midstream. Humphrey recommended doing a “SWOT analysis.” SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
While every group has some sense of their strengths and weaknesses when they make their plans and start out on their project together, it is not uncommon for individuals and groups to learn new things about their strengths and weaknesses while working together. It’s important to take stock, on occasion, of what you now know about your strengths and weaknesses. It’s possible that there is a midstream adjustment your team could (or perhaps should) take given what you now know about your strengths and weaknesses.
In addition, it’s important to keep an eye out for new opportunities that you didn’t know of when you made your plan. It’s exciting when your group realizes that there are some paths they didn’t even know about when they started. Rather than woodenly sticking to your original plan, doing a “SWOT analysis” includes looking around for any new opportunities and making changes to your plan if needed.
The same is true of new threats that your team may encounter. While these unexpected barriers or frustrations or limitations may not be as fun to encounter as new opportunities, the wise group does the same with them: honestly face them square on and consider whether the new threats warrant any changes to their plans.
Changing your plans to accommodate a new situation on the ground does not mean that you somehow got things “wrong” with the first version of your plan. Rather, it’s a sign of good and wise leadership. Sure, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. But with attentive leadership and helpful tools like the SWOT analysis, your group can pivot and adjust and make your well-laid plans even better over time.