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Tools: Creating Castles in the Air

Castles in the air

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
–Henry David Thoreau

This is an exercise that’s especially good for company retreats, where a lot of forward-looking big ideas are discussed.  While in the excitement of the retreat, people are often enthusiastic and supportive.  However, when you return to the everyday realities of work, it’s easy to think of them as wishful thinking.  This helps to keep the ideas grounded and provides a solid head start for developing an implementation plan.

  1. Brainstorm a number of goals you want to happen within the next year.  Go “pie in the sky” (pun intended).  Make them big goals.
  2. Write each goal on 1 post-it each.
  3. Put up 1 goal post-it on the top of a blank wall.
  4. For each goal, ask “how can we make that happen?” Each answer is a potential next step.
  5. Write each next step on a post-it and place them in a horizontal line underneath the goal.
  6. Review all the next steps and see if there’s anything you need to do before you can take that next step.
  7. If there is, write down other next steps underneath it.
  8. Feel free to reorganize all the next steps as you go along.
  9. In the end, you want to have a tree of all the specific next actions you need to take in order to make the goal happen.

While this doesn’t take the place of formal project management and planning, it provides a good start to help you think through what needs to happen to make virtually any goal a reality.