Skip to content

The 3 Most Essential Planning Questions

A few days ago, I was listening to Will Wright (computer game mastermind – on left) interview E.O.Wilson (biologist and professor emeritus at Harvard – on right) on NPR -

At the end of the interview, Wright asked Wilson what issue he sees as the biggest unanswered question in the world of biology. Wilson’s response was “the origin of altruistic social behavior.” He went on to state that “few people want to ask the essential questions anymore.” He said that the essential questions he’s referring to are also the essential questions that Paul Gauguin posed in his 1897 painting – D’où venons-nous? Qui sommes-nous? Où allons-nous?

Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?

At the time, I thought of these questions in the context of the interview. But, since then, I’ve thought about how these same 3 questions are in essence the same ones that we facilitate for our clients in the strategic planning process.

This time of year is typical for leaders to start thinking of the importance of planning – planning for 4th quarter, planning for 2010 and beyond. (In fact, I’m proud to say that we’ve got the ball rolling for all of the aforementioned plans for Catch Your Limit.)

In the last few weeks, I’ve had many conversations regarding facilitating planning. In the process of assessing what type of planning an organization has had in the past, what they need now and what process will be most efficient and effective for a client, I am often amazed by the responses I get to these 3 questions. Below are the 3 most common responses to “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?”:

  • We don’t need to spend time on those questions – we addressed that years ago. (When I follow up with “How many years ago” the answer is typically 5+ years ago.)
  • I can answer those. (My 1st response – “Great! Please share the answers.”) Then, if they can clearly articulate the answers, I ask, “Can everyone in your organization?” The answer I received last week – “Well, we’re mostly concerned with Sr. Mngt”.
  • And, finally, I hear, “You know, we should probably address those. What do you need as a facilitator – an hour for that?”

Perhaps Wilson is right … few people want to ask the essential questions anymore.

I haven’t done a scientific analysis of the responses I get to the questions. However, any of our consultants can verify that we hear these responses – or something similar – time and time again.

And, yes, although the responses are fewer and far between, we also hear from those of you out there who are investing the time to do planning right – thank you and way to go – keep on asking those essential questions and keep on adapting, changing, innovating and catching your limit!

><(("> Melissa Laughon

Melissa is a ><(("> Team Member at Catch Your Limit, a management consulting firm with offices in Tallahassee, Florida and Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, visit

Posted in Strategic Planning.


Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

Some HTML is OK

Connect with Facebook

or, reply to this post via trackback.