The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Turning Dreams Into Reality: The Power of Strategic Planning and Systems Thinking - MLDP Session with Marty Jacobs '82

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Marty Jacobs ’82, president of Systems In Sync, a strategic planning and consulting firm, joined MLDP on their February 21st session to share her expertise on systems thinking and strategic planning. Ms. Jacobs began the session by showing systems thinking in action. She asked students to perform an exercise in groups that involved working as a team to keep a balloon in the air. By instituting a change to the system—the addition of a balloon weighted by a marble, students were forced to think critically and methodically. After this task, Ms. Jacobs engaged students in a more formal discussion of systems thinking and strategic planning. Ms. Jacobs encouraged students to explore the question, “Why systems thinking?” To this end, students offered motivations such as the ability of systems thinking to help one “think about a goal in a series of more manageable steps.”
Ms. Jacobs offered anecdotes from her own professional experience about the power of systems-thinking and strategic planning, such as their uses in remedying budget issues in a Vermont school district. She then walked students through the steps in the Strategic Planning Process and introduced several strategic planning tools to help guide the process. Ms. Jacobs asked students to put these newly-learned techniques to use as they analyzed the strength of three sample strategic plans. Students then were invited to devise their own case study of a problem that could be solved through use of the strategic planning tools introduced earlier in the session. Students applied strategic planning to scenarios ranging from solving the New Hampshire state budget crisis to founding an origami paper company. These examples, Ms. Jacobs emphasized, illustrated the versatility of a strategic planning approach in achieving a variety of goals. Ms. Jacobs concluded the session by further highlighting this point with a video clip that left MLDPers in hysterics.
-- Kristen Clifford '13

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