The purpose of this article is to introduce the Triangle as a very simple, very effective, very reliable and proven planning tool.
What is planning?
Planning is simply looking to the future and discovering alternative courses of action. You can do it consciously and unconsciously. You plan when you shop, drive, eat, sleep, invest, spend, play sport – you are always planning. Planning is simply making decisions – and making decisions is closely connected with choosing from two or more options.
Planning can be complicated or simple – and planning tools are always relevant.
Why is the Triangle so useful?
A triangle has three angles and three sides - each connected with and relevant to the other two. I usually start my planning with an equilateral triangle in which all three sides and angles are of equal value and importance. Increase one angle, and you automatically decrease the other two sides and angles.
Starting with the triangle requires me to identify three equally important factors for consideration prior to deciding or choosing – and I label these as:
- person/s involved or affected,
- tasks to be undertaken, and
- environment within which the person/s will be involved or affected by the tasks.
Any problem, need, opportunity or challenge – no matter how simple or complex – can be broken down to these three components. The equilateral Triangle reminds one that if I start my planning or thinking with person/s, I mustn’t overlook tasks and environment: if I start with tasks, I mustn’t overlook person/s or environment: if I start with environment, I mustn’t overlook person/s or tasks.
Then, when I’ve identified likely persons, tasks and environment, I develop further equilateral triangles to ‘sub-divide’ each of these three components – until a decision or choice becomes obvious.
Criteria for deciding or choosing:
Whether or not we are aware of applying criteria, we will use some method to prioritize options. Examples include:
- availability of key persons,
- familiarity, comfort, convenience,
- affordability or accessibility,
- usefulness, utility,
Who should be involved in planning?
Certainly those who have a stake in the process or outcome of the planning process. This means they could bear the blame or credit for decisions or choices made, or be personally or professionally affected by the process or outcome of the planning process.
Two examples of the use of the equilateral triangle in my writing are:
- The Left and Right Brain Business, written in 1997 following nine years of working with left- and right-brain orientation as a tool in understanding how people think, work and act; and
- my 2011 Making Ethics Work series, developed to empower staff in Nonprofits and SMEs to define and apply an ethical standard in their workplaces.