Tag Archives: Systems Theory

Inclusive Planning

I continue to toy with the ideas and values behind inclusive planning. As a central theme of my MA research, I am consistently looking to better understand the nuances of inclusion in practice. We all have moments of clarity amidst our trip through the haze of organizational systems. Mine came while thinking about the juxtaposition of two levers in our planning processes. The first of these is the rejuvenation of the Japanese system of lean thinking. The other is the ongoing need to better understand how social capital can be drawn upon to create more with less. Each have their individual value for organizations, but I think together they simply make good practice.


In their treatment of lean thinking, Womack and Jones (2003) identified four key components of creating effective and efficient organizational systems. In order to be lean, an organization they said must structure every activity, connect customers with suppliers, simplify workflow, and experiment at low levels (p. 58). Not unlike my previous post on strategic planning, the planning elements are apparent in this process. Plans of all sorts in my experience are an activity guide for others to follow. Where I think planning falls short however is in how organizations connect with their customers and engage them in various projects.

In both non-profit and profit oriented organizations there is an engagement process that in my opinion only touches the potential value of consumer interest. Traditionally, these needs assessments are focused on satisfaction related feedback and opinions on potential gaps. Organizations use this information in their planning in the attempt to meet the needs of their constituents. Baker (2003) pointed out that there is a power in relationships that can be harnessed by an organization. In his description of the value of social capital, he recognizes the power of the collaborative network built on a system of reciprocity that moves people awaY from managing tasks and Individuals to creating relational value (p. 14-15). Although this may seem complementary to the process of strategic planning, I would argue that if the relationship is not been developed first, then planning is fruitless.

I wonder, how many organizations truly consider their strategic planning to  be inclusive? How many are so focused on lean strategies to save costs that they negate the value of reciprocal relationships. I wonder how our relationships can truly be leveraged to create a feedback system that is ongoing and engaging?


Baker, W. (2003). Building collaborative relationships. Leader to Leader, 28, 11-15.

Womack, J. P., & Jones, D. T. (2003). New paradigms: Shedding corporate weight. Leader to Leader, 28, 57-59.