“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood…” said Daniel Burnham, American architect and city planner who played a leading role in the creation of Chicago and downtown Washington, DC, among other cities, and was director of works for the 1893 World’s Fair: Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Burnham was clearly a big thinker who created big plans with payoffs to match.
I enjoyed the company of a group of big thinkers this past week. The place is Harrison County Indiana, population 39,000. A fearless president and her board of the Harrison County Chamber of Commerce invested two days to develop a new three-year strategic plan.
Don’t ever assume that small towns don’t have big plans. Folks here call themselves the “little big town,” and the board is a varied and determined representation of the diverse business community.
I observed four reasons this Chamber was able to set big goals and establish a progressive position as they face the next three years:
1. The right people. Make no mistake, selecting board members who want to push the norm to the new normal is intentional and takes work.
2. Agree on a vision that inspires everyone. Without a big bold vision, it’s hard to get people to think big. Unexpectedly (and courageously), the board decided to revise the vision of what the Chamber would be for their members 10+ years into the future.
3. Keep stakeholders in the forefront. The group identified key member segments so they could see real business people in their minds as they prioritized ideas.
4. Focus on the right business issues. The group focused on important including economic and business development issues facing them. Ones that would most impact quality of life and community development opportunities.
The result is three big, aggressive goals with progressive activities to bring them to life.
As Chamber President Lisa Long observed, “This deliberate process not only resulted in goals that will benefit our members and community; they also had an energizing effect on those that participated. A renewed sense of vision and the resulting goals will set a course for our Chamber that will have the full faith and support of the board for several years to come. In turn it will create a more member focused, driven organization. I am proud the way the board participants channeled their energy through their respect for diverse perspectives that reignited their enthusiasm for our organization and the future of our community-the little big town of Harrison County, Indiana.”
The group ended on an energetic note. Chris, a young, otherwise quiet, analytical type commented that he was more motivated than he’s been for years knowing the organization is heading in a new direction with a sense of purpose.
Congratulations little big town! Your town may be small but your plans are big – the right size to respond to your compelling market conditions, competitive environment and appetite to make no little plans.