Using Clean for business planning

Clean in Business

Margaret Meyer, strategy development consultant and coach

Conventional business planning processes can be very effective. They can also be very complex, time-consuming, and produce plans that look great on paper but are difficult to implement. For the last 6 months I’ve been experimenting, using Clean Language and Clean Space together with planning tools like C@PS5 and the European Excellence model, with the intention of developing a clear, simple process that captures not just the planning essentials (like the company mission and key business targets) but allows clients to creatively express things like vision and values – crucial to any strategy, but often hard to articulate.  

One of the paradoxes of strategy development is that it so often hinges on the planning team’s knowledge of various inner worlds – the inner world of the company, and the inner worlds of colleagues. Yet, only rarely is this paradox acknowledged! I have found that working with metaphor and Clean Space in a planning process provides productive ways to include those inner worlds. In a recent session with a client who’s starting up his own business we saw this in action. We first explored a series of spaces that knew something about his  situation right now – the opportunities and challenges. Finding a space that knew something about his company’s future was a very creative way of getting him thinking about what he wanted to have happen. From that space, too, he discovered a powerful metaphor that perfectly expressed what he wanted his business to achieve (vision), and the ways in which he wanted to achieve it (values and objectives). I’ve often found that moving clients from their current situation to future vision can be the hardest part of the process. However there’s now no doubt in my mind that the combination of Clean Space and metaphor made that transition so much easier.

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