The purpose of this article is to introduce the Arrow as a very simple, every effective, very reliable and proven planning tool. This tool links with the mathematical concept of ‘Centre of Gravity’ – so read on!
Arrows are best known for their place in history as weapons – in war, hunting, threatening displays of strength, and in friendly competitions. However:
- they feature in many archaeological digs, and convey the reality and possibilities of past times, customs and relationships.
- they also convey a loving message around St Valentine’s Day!
- as a planning tool, they indicate strength, existing or potential alliances or partnerships, possibilities, connections and directions – to name a few uses!
I use arrows to understand and explore concepts, and indicate possibilities such as:
- Accountability and reporting – in any chart or listing of any organisation’s internal positions, I use an arrow to indicate who is accountable to whom, and who reports to whom,
- Allocating or re-allocating responsibilities – role clarity is a key contributor in both performance management and individual job satisfaction: arrows are useful in clarifying who is responsible for what, or for re-allocating responsibilities in collaboration with the people directly involved,
- Connections – arrows can demonstrate one- or two-way connections, and can be drawn around corners, across columns, through diagrams or lines of text, or by adding numbers in the arrow-head to signify boundaries, eg cost or time estimates,
- Delegations of authority – this information can be circulated with emphasis on the person/position to whom authority is delegated – or with emphasis on the delegation itself. Either way, arrows are useful tools here to ensure a clear message.
- Movement and direction – an arrow conveys movement of energy, resources, people, goods, messages, and almost anything tangible or intangible,
- Editing – combined with a circle or square, an arrow can move text for clarity or accuracy, transfer or extend financial estimates, link themes, etc,
- Relationships – arrows are useful to build a ‘helicopter view’ of relationships in a group of any nature or size – extremely useful in exploring both formal and informal structures: different colours can clarify respective areas of responsibility – and variations of straight, wavy or dotted lines convey the formality or frequency of such reports.
Now – why is Centre of Gravity relevant to the use of arrows as a planning tool? Because the shaft of any arrow has to have a starting point. Whether connecting, conveying, displaying, instructing or suggesting a point of reference, each arrow must begin at one point and move to another point.
When writing my 2007 book, Riding the Waves of Community Development in Australia since the 1870s, I used Chapter 6 to introduce Concepts and theories that can guide practical action plans to help us understand, respect and capitalise on a variety of waves. Here’s the page from Chapter 6 on Centre of Gravity:
Definition: from Encyclopaedia Britannica
In physics, the imaginary point in a body of matter where, for convenience in certain calculations, the total weight of the body may be thought to be concentrated. The concept is sometimes useful in designing static structures (eg buildings and bridges) or in predicting the behaviour of a moving body when it is acted on by gravity.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, explains that the Centre of Gravity is sometimes referred to as the Centre of Mass:
I recall reading that a racing car’s centre of gravity is a crucial calculation in ensuring that the racing car ‘hugs’ the road when being driven at racing speed. This was explained as the reason for racing cars being designed with little space between the car’s centre of gravity and the race track.
Now, I have a much more simple illustration – before applying this theory to a small/medium business or a nonprofit organisation. Imagine a family who has lived in a city’s inner suburbs for many years moving to live in the city’s outer suburbs. It’s highly likely that it will take some time for members of the family to gauge distances – and time to travel certain distances – from their new home rather than from their previous home.
This is an application of the centre of gravity in simple terms: the centre of gravity for the family has been in the inner suburban area, and now they have to factor in more time to travel from home to the city than previously, or less time to travel from home to other outer suburbs than before. It can take time for family members to automatically plan their time and travel with their outer suburban home as the starting point rather than their previous inner suburban home as the starting point. It’s even possible that some members of the family may travel to their previous inner suburban neighbourhood before setting off to their destination!
Then, one day, they realise they are naturally and easily planning their travel and time with their new neighbourhood as the starting point or point of reference. One could say that, at last, their centre of gravity is their outer suburban home.
A mathematician or physicist will have trouble with my simple example, for sure.
Applying this to a small/medium business or a nonprofit organisation, one could say that the center of mass or gravity is the issue, activity or concern about which the people behave as a concentrated energy – or with a collective passion.
Bring the people within your organisation or business together to discuss and identify the aspect of the organisation or its activities that gives the greatest sense of satisfaction – or generates the greatest level of dissatisfaction.
This will indicate the centre of mass or gravity of the organisation – where the people belonging to the organisation behave as a concentrated energy or with a collective passion.
The discussion should then proceed as to whether this is where the organisation needs the concentrated energy or collective passion to be focused: if so, then the organisation and its mass of people are in sync: if not, then the organisation has some work to do in re-alignment.
And here’s the definition (from Wikipedea) of ‘Centre of Gravity’ as offered by the Unites States Department of Defense:
‘the source of power that provides moral or physical strength, freedom of action, or will to act. Thus, the center of gravity is usually seen as the “source of strength’.
All planning should begin with the ‘source of strength’ – that’s the starting point in using the arrow as a planning tool!
This series of ‘planning tool’ articles consists of:
- Step 1 – how and why planning tools can be my simple, effective and reliable planning tools – including a circle, triangle and straight line (uploaded 23rd May 2012)
- Step 2 – Triangle (uploaded 7th June )
- Step 3 – Straight Line (uploaded 13th June)
- Step 4 – Circle (uploaded 20th June)
- Step 5 – Square (uploaded 26th June)
- Step 6 – Arrow (uploaded 19th July)
- Step 7 – Table
- Step 8 – Symbols