A plan is much like a jigsaw puzzle, a bunch of pieces that, when put together, represent a complete picture. If a puzzle piece goes missing the whole picture may not make any sense. Some plans, when looked at, create round puzzles, others are square and some are rectangular, but the common factor is that a well-done plan creates a complete picture.
Strategies are much like plans, they are a bunch of puzzle pieces that create a longer-term picture. Plans, or strategies, work when all of the puzzle pieces are the same. And therein lies the problem.
Many people surf the Internet, looking for puzzle pieces for their strategic plans. They find something with the Government of Canada, pick up something from Ontario, pick up a piece from B.C., grab another piece from Australia and wrap it up with another puzzle piece from the Government of the U.K. The problem is that they then take these puzzle pieces and try to make them fit, but the pictures are different. The shapes are different.
When you build a plan you know where you are and where you want to go. When you piece together a plan based on other peoples ideas, you need to understand where they are in order to figure out if their plan, if the piece that you are borrowing, fits into your plan. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the pieces do fit, both organizations were coming at the same problem from the same angle so things fit well.
But sometimes the fit is … haphazard at best. Have you ever tried to fit a piece into a jigsaw puzzle, moving it around, trying to jam it into place? And then you find a piece that fits better but you’ve already wrecked the other piece? I know I did that as a kid but some of us have done that as an adult. And some do it when trying to come up with plans or strategies. They try to make something fit when it obviously doesn’t fit and then they’ve wrecked it. They’ve made a piece fit where it shouldn’t and have left another area empty.
If you are going to create a strategy then you need to understand where you are coming from and where you are going. If you are going to be borrowing pieces of someone else’s strategy then you need to figure out where they started from and where they are going. Failure to do so will result in a failure. It’s as simple as that. Like the jigsaw puzzle with pieces that don’t match, a strategy using pieces other peoples pieces without the underlying understanding will result in something that doesn’t fit together.