A Delivery Plan for me as a writer: Why not?

Since 1980 my paid jobs have contained a strong element of drawing up (or helping others to draw up) plans that have variously gone by titles such as Delivery Plan or Development Plan or Strategic Plan. The organisations believed that these formed a key component in their attempts to make progress in the world. Why, then, would I not want to sketch an outline plan for the development or delivery of myself as Geoff Bateson: The Writer?

In the past Plans had Vision Statements or Mission Statements. I never felt comfortable with these (often) grandiose platitudes. At the same time it was useful to have a set of statements about ultimate direction of travel. In that spirit, Geoff Bateson: The Writer would probably want to head towards being something along the lines of:

… being an author of the future … ; being a writer of the future … ;helping to write the future ..; writing ways forward …; thinking forward to something different; looking forward to new ways of thinking about things … This describes where I think I am heading with all of this writing stuff.

To what purpose? Why would that interest me (or anyone else)? What differences would I hopefully want to make? What can I say to give a bit more flesh to why I think I am writing? Although in reality I write because I cannot NOT write – it is what I do, but then this is just a Plan, right .Thinking about it, these seemed to be something like:

  • To make it easier for people to think about things that they may not normally consider …
  • To create linkages between people, thoughts, ideas … developing things that may contribute to a broader knowledge-creating system …using networks of intelligence – and doing so in ways that are felt to have a degree of integrity
  • To innovate, satisfy, amuse, perplex , … in a range of ways …
  • To test out structures that allow flexibility; matching focus with a sense of discovery …
  • Personally: To ‘have an occupation’ without it feeling like ‘being at work’; but which draws on all that I have learnt from previous occupations/employments … coupling these to my, as yet, still underdeveloped aspirations …

There are a range of current challenges that face all organisations. Could I apply these to my new way of organising myself? Moving forward, seeing the development of Geoff Bateson: The Writer as a medium-scale transition project or an extended enterprise, I could maybe reflect on things such as:

Operating within a sense of direction (Having a strategy, if you prefer…):  This includes giving  deliberate attention to getting the thinking straight and valuing thinking time so that any sense of creativity is carried forward within a common framework. There is a commitment to time and space being given to innovating and coming up with different ideas whilst maintaining a sense of coherence – to do a variety of different things but in a way that all still seems part of the same overall flow. There need to be times and spaces for passions and idiosyncrasies to show through. Making things up as you go along can be a positive thing if done in certain ways: thinking smart; making the right moves; watching emerging horizons then acting at the right time (with any actions evaluated by how well they contribute to the overall purposes).

Having a body of ideas, even a grand theory, that guides development:  As they move forward organisations need to be able to keep going back to core ideas, values and purposes. All too often, sadly, this can be an obvious failing. Enterprises get deluded by their own rhetoric, get seduced by growth, lose sight of where they were heading, and so on. Sometimes staying on track is helped by creating a credible story that both describes the organisation and helps to differentiate it from other enterprises. Sometimes it may be more important to think of marketing not in terms of selling products but in terms of marketing the story. This is not about putting false spins on things or overhyping everything but is about creating a mystique that genuinely allures and attracts without any sense of falseness. What, then, do I think is the story that I can keep telling myself when I feel that I might be drifting?

Uncovering new ways of thinking about things:   Enterprises – if they are to flourish on their own terms – need to be strong on innovation, research and development.  The aim is not to turn out example after example of the same stuff but to deliberately develop difference. In organisations this relates to innovating new products or approahes. For me as a writer it might mean deliberately going for different styles of writing and different types of ‘output’. Organisations often need to surprise, by doing new things, whilst relying on what works well already. If I were to think of Geoff Bateson; the writer as an enterprise would I also need to think in these terms? Would I need to be able to draw on the past to shape the future; recognise the demand for distinctive things; work on developing some kind of recognisable style; be novel and valued enough so that people look forward to contacts.

Connecting with increasing numbers of people:  In most enterprises this means the drive to build new customers, to expand the audience-base, to grow sales etc. In my case it is more along the lines of making positive links with people in meaningful ways, that are not overly bureaucratic, ‘clunky’ or high-pressure etc.. Successful enterprises tend to be ones that think a lot about willingly putting energies into the enterprise rather than simply focusing on how much can be got out of the enterprise. In terms of customer relations this translates as ‘How can we give more to other people, not get more out of them ..?’ This then goes back to the core purposes, the overall sense of direction: Seeking to create opportunities for others (to have better lives, easier lives, make a contribution, fix a wrong)… generating a ‘feel good’ aspect … or seeking to maximise profit?

So far, so good.

What would be unique about my little enterprise? What might its defining features be? These wouldn’t be generalities that apply to everyone but would be things specific to me, here, now. So maybe it is something like:

  • Not about wanting to amass great fame, or power, or wealth …
  • Not about maximising profit – any gains made are likely to be reinvested in further developments, more adventures …
  • Maybe seeking to establish a degree of influence …to be recognised as having something of value to contribute to the greater good …
  • Should be something to do with enjoyment … (in development the ways of working and in the outcomes/ things offered for use) .. certainly knowing that some bits of the tasks are routine or hard but certainly avoiding a feeling of the whole thing being ‘a chore’.
  • Will probably feel more ‘serious’ than ‘frivolous’ … but still having an appropriate degree of accessibility. ‘Light touch’ not ‘Heavy handed’.
  • Will go at a managed pace  … looking for opportunities without overloading others/the system .. Relaxing about daily task-lists and getting a perspective of the longer-view .. knowing when to stop.
  • Developments will based more on value systems than on traditional business models … whilst still being business-like …
  • Certainly about wanting to keep connecting with any bigger picture but always with a sense of the personal/individual …
  • Certainly about delivering on promises made … (ie staying well beyond empty rhetoric) …
  • Can have some ‘claim to fame’ element (but for something real) …
  • Certainly the aim should feel somewhat entrepreneurial…

If I were advising a developing organisation I would usually, by now, be stressing the need for a lot of thought to go into the communication strategy. How will the enterprise present itself? What are the common, recurring messages that help tell the tale of the enterprise?

How the whole enterprise/ development/ ‘project’ gets talked about will be shaped by how it is thought about, and how it gets thought about will rely on how it is talked about … It is important, therefore, to get initial ideas down in words, to be thought about later. The approach should be able to be described, not in jargon but in ways that feel unique and authentic (even different). Using a strategic language is not the same as stringing together a whole set of buzzwords.

So if I were trying to convince myself that Geoff Bateson: The Writer is a worthwhile enterprise to put energy into then the story of what it is all about has to be a compelling one. If others are to be convinced then the specific language/tone/vocabulary will be crucial.

So what values would I want to communicate? One is certainly that the scale of ambition is modest and will avoid competitive, aggressive lines of development. The enterprise will also want to be well-known-about in a warm way and, on its own terms, be able to act as a key contributor to other developments. If I want anything I do to be positively regarded/talked about then I have to earn the right to be talked about, by creating things that can be talked about – and making it easy for such conversations to take place. This may begin to sound a bit woolly but it is a beginning: It sets an overall tone.

Day by day my immediate focus might be on writing the next thing. Any such small steps will be able to be seen as potentially adding to a longer journey. This journey will most likely explore edges; go into unfamiliar territory, even at the risk of seeming foolish but without provoking negative reactions that aren’t helpful. Communication will be honest about dilemmas; have bold dialogues; acknowledge mistakes.

In the usual sort of Plan the next section would set out what gets produced, in what volumes, to what timescales, at what costs. I already have this broadly sketched out for the next year (in a way that still allows for change, for new ideas etc) and this form the content of a future blog posting.

At the moment, all of the above are ideas in my head and make a lot of sense there. Once down in black and white, and read by others in a different place from where the thoughts originated, they may not make quite the same sense. If not then I apologise now. In my own mind it all still makes sense to me. I have a Delivery Plan – of sorts.

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