Codynamic Planning: The Way To Do
Planning In The 21st Century


Strategic planning is an outgrowth of military strategy as developed in the World Wars. The name "strategy" is derived from the Greek word for "generalship." By definition, strategy is what "generals" or leaders do from a distance. They do not become involved in contact with the enemy or the actual physical combat.

Strategic planning was adopted by business in the post-war years and used with great success by large companies like General Motors and Ford. One of the most successful automotive strategic planners, Robert S. McNamara, became Secretary of Defense in the 1960s. He developed a strategic plan for how the U.S. would win the Vietnam War. As we all know, that was a colossal failure.

In his landmark book, "The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning," Henry Mintzberg, probably the greatest expert in the world on strategic planning, explained in great detail why traditional strategic planning is almost always a failure. The bottom line of his book and his lifetime of studies is that traditional strategic planning provides the illusion of control.

In most organizations and communities, strategic planning is conducted by leaders who enjoy control. That is how they got to be leaders. Usually these are very intelligent, experienced people who have had a career of increasing success. Their personalities are well suited to do strategic planning. The only problem is, traditional strategic planning does not work for large-scale, complex problems, especially those we encounter in the 21st Century.

Lawrimore Communications has facilitated strategic planning for many government, nonprofit and business organizations for over 20 years. We have helped leaders write elegant plans with inspiring visions, mission statements, goals and strategies. But no sooner had the ink dried than new problems popped up which were not in the plan. The plans took a lot of work, so no one wanted to do them over again. As a result, the plans were often laid aside or ignored as people got on with their work and the real problems they encountered. For many people, this has been very frustrating.

A few years ago we began searching for a better way to do large-scale planning. We studied the success secrets of America’s leading companies. We read about various alternatives to planning such as the Learning Organization. We experimented with The Balanced Scorecard and strategic alignment. But nothing seemed quite right for the challenges that our clients and we were facing.

Then, through a single reference in a footnote of one of the books we read, we learned about a totally new way of dealing with constant change. It is based on recent scientific discoveries of how living systems, from ant colonies to businesses and communities, actually adapt to their changing environments, learn to be more successful, and evolve to higher levels. In the past couple of years an increasing number of organizations around the world have adopted these methods with dramatic results. They range from giant Monsanto and Citicorp to small businesses, nonprofit and community organizations.

We found this new way of dealing problems very compelling. The fact that it is based on science and the natural world was especially appealing. This is not what some management guru or military leader thinks. This is the real world.

Lawrimore Communications has adapted this powerful knowledge (which as originally developed is scientific and abstract) into a very practical, effective system called Codynamics. As the name implies, it is truly dynamic, and involves a lot of interaction. "Codynamics" means "power together." Groups which use it find that it is the most energizing, exciting, effective process they have ever encountered for dealing with complex problems and constant change. It is particularly effective dealing with challenging problems which seem to have no solution - the problems keep changing as you try to tackle them. That's why they are called "wicked problems."

Traditional strategic planning still works for the things you can actually control. These include things like buildings, infrastructure, transportation systems, computer systems, and certain areas of finance and accounting. What these things all have in common is that they are nonliving. It is fairly easy to control nonliving things. It is fairly difficult to control living things, especially people, who have minds of their own and do not like being controlled, thank you. If your problems or challenges involve people, especially those whom you cannot totally control, you need the power of Codynamics to do effective planning in the 21st Century.

In brief, Codynamic planning involves:

  • Bottom up, not top down, direction. The people who will do the work or be affected by your plans must not only be involved in developing the plans, they must remain involved in executing the plans.
  • High information flow. Living systems like your body are connected with millions of neurons which instantly communicate any change such as movement, heat or pressure. Codynamic systems connect participants with a constant flow of information, using the Internet, print, meetings and many other media. Everyone is equally informed so everyone can make good decisions.
  • Respect for individuals. In Codynamic systems, just as in living systems, every part, every person is important and vital. The role of leaders is to nurture the system as a whole, to encourage learning and growth, not to tell other people what to do.
  • Working in teams. People for millions of years have naturally worked in teams to hunt, farm, work, worship and many other functions. Small groups provide intimacy, sharing, emotional support and creative problem solving. Codynamic teams are not the same as traditional teams – they are better. This is where a lot of the excitement and energy comes from.
  • Adapting to the changing environment. Just as in the natural world, Codynamics views success as fitness, as in "survival of the fittest." The fittest are those who learn to adapt to constant change. They can handle anything that the real world slings at them. They not only survive, they thrive and prosper. The only thing certain about the future is that it will be different from the present. The only way to deal with the future is to make your plans very flexible, based on involvement of all the people affected, and constantly adapt, constantly change, every single day. This way you are always in synch with the real world, not off in some fantasy land. And if you adapt on a daily basis, change is never traumatic or painful.
  • Developing multiple scenarios. Experienced planners and leaders know that it is impossible to develop one scenario that will come true in the future. So developing multiple scenarios allows thinking through several possible futures, and what the organization would do if any one of them came true. This kind of strategic thinking is very valuable and helps the organization be better prepared for the future.
  • A concise, core plan is still very valuable. Depending on the size of the organization, it may be only 1-2 pages. A shared vision and a few key goals are all that's needed. That way anyone can review it in a few minutes and remind themselves what the intent was. Such a concise plan says, in effect, "Here's the latest on the direction we're taking." It should be widely shared, or available online, with password-protected access if needed for security. But like an ongoing news story, it can change at any moment, depending on the changing environment, internal developments or other dynamics. When it is changed, the new version is sent to everyone involved.

These are some of the reasons why Codynamics is so much more effective than traditional strategic planning for dealing with change, for dealing with complex problems which involve people, for staying in touch with reality, and for achieving far greater success than you ever imagined. The real world for most organizations is not a military battle where your goal is defeating the enemy. You are often part of the problem, and you cannot control the real world. You can, however, learn the secrets of nature, as science is discovering daily, and plan accordingly with the power of Codynamics.

It is not feasible to explain all the details of Codynamic planning here. To learn more about the science behind Codynamics, check out the other pages of our website. To discuss your particular interests or questions, please contact President Buck Lawrimore at 704-332-4344 or email Buck@Codynamics.net.


Copyright 2004, E.W. "Buck" Lawrimore, Lawrimore Communications Inc., Charlotte, NC USA