As we all get ready for one of my favorite holidays, the Fourth of July, it is important to remember why we must celebrate the founding of our country. Of course, we are all excited to see a good fireworks show, and those of us in San Diego are confident our show on the bay will be a bit longer than last year’s “all at once” extravaganza.
However, the fireworks are merely a reminder of what is truly important about this day, and that is the celebration of what can happen when smart people get together and create something great, and in fact, are willing to fight for it.
Our founding fathers were wise enough to know that in order to create a great country, they would have to develop a vision for what could be. That vision is embodied in the Declaration of Independence, which contains what is probably the most important sentence written in American history.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Simply stating your vision is an important step in the creation of any organization, a country included, but the vision is only the beginning of the process, as was the case for our founding fathers.
What is often lost in history is that our founding fathers struggled for many years after the passing of the Declaration of Independence in July of 1776 to put together a new form of government that would meet the needs of an entire population based on the visionary language laid out in that document. At first, they adopted The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, but that document did not go far enough to lay out all the details the plan would need to create a great country.
Let’s just say that was the first draft of what is unquestionably the greatest strategic plan ever written, the U.S. Constitution.
The Constitution was not officially adopted until Sept. 17, 1787, by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pa., and ratified by conventions in eleven states. It didn’t actually go into effect until March 4, 1789, almost thirteen years after the creation of the vision laid out in the Declaration of Independence.
The great thing about this strategic plan we call the Constitution is that it is not a static document, but has been updated 27 times. The first 10 of those updates, or amendments, we know as the Bill of Rights. The others have been adopted over the years, and they all still drive our country.
While many of us have been through lengthy and difficult planning processes, I would argue none have been as important nor perhaps as arduous as the work of the Continental Congress. But there is certainly a lesson in this quick trip through history for all of our organizations: you can not create a great organization on a good idea alone; you must have a comprehensive plan to really make it happen, and lots of people will need to buy in to it. There will be a process involved, and it will not be easy, but long-term success depends on it.
It does not matter if you are the CEO of a multinational corporation, the executive director of a nonprofit organization or the owner of a small or medium sized business (or are even just thinking about starting a new business), it is critically important that you not only establish a very clear vision for your organization, but that you also spend the time and energy to create a real strategic plan for your organization. In fact, history, if you want to have one, demands it.
Happy Fourth of July to everyone that makes up this great country, especially to our friends, families, colleagues and clients. We hope you all get to see a great fireworks show and enjoy your own personal quest for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.