Planning begins with hope, Groundhog’s Day Edition

What is it about Groundhog’s Day that has us thinking about strategic planning? There isn’t some new spin on groundhog shadows tied to strategic planning. No magical, if the groundhog sees his shadow, it means strategic plan objective number 5: Reduce faculty and staff race/ethnicity data reporting unknowns will magically be met within six weeks. I wish! (as an aside, you can log into Workday to see if your profile accurately reflects your credentials and background.)

No, no shadows or the absence of shadows will move certain objectives along, that’s what collaboration and community are for. 

But the history of Groundhog’s Day is tied to the natural cycle of the seasons, and a calendar defined by the tilt of the earth, marked by solstices and equinoxes. Groundhog’s Day isn’t any of those either, but it falls roughly halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox—that magical time period when everyone is desperate for new life and hope.

Enter Scene, a 1993 Classic

Hope, a feeling that Phil Connors, played by Bill Murray in the 1993 movie, Groundhog’s Day, is not quite self-aware enough to recognize when assigned to travel to small town Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. But what Phil eventually discovers through trial and error and a lot of Sonny and Cher wake up calls, is finally, a new perspective. 

And that’s where strategic planning begins – recognizing that change and progress are possible and then doing the work to build a road map to those goals. Strategic planning at WSU begins with identifying your mission, defining your vision, and identifying values that help shape your goals and a road map for achieving them. 

Digital alarm clock reads, 6:00am

Unlike Phil, we all don’t get to do-over each day (or one particular day), but as Phil re-lives Groundhog’s Day over and over, he tries new things—good, bad, everything in between, until he finds a new direction, a new perspective, and begins to build a whole new outlook on life—a mission and vision.

But before the curmudgeon weatherman ever gets to that point, he practically gives up. 

“What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same and nothing that you did mattered?” 

And Phil Connors really does feel stuck. But how do you move forward? What are those next steps? What do you do when your first response is, “again?”

Build Community

The answer for Phil Connors, after a number of missteps, is community. 

Collaborating with neighbors, having the information to solve problems before—or as they arise. In the movie Groundhog’s Day, it looks like magic, as Phil runs around solving problems before people even know what’s about to happen. Re-living the same day after day, Phil is the guy with all the knowledge, and can make data-informed decisions that impact Punxsutawney.

In strategic planning, using the tools that you have—like data and information, establishing and fostering relationships—can help solve problems, collaborate, measure successes, and provide insight on how to move forward. 

The blueprint is right there: gathering information, a willingness to help, a personal responsibility to community, and recognizing an impact that can be made on everyone around you. It’s that same sense of community and responsibility that drives WSU’s strategic plan—a mission to give back to our community, to make Washington a better place. And that impact starts with a hopeful perspective to kick off a whole season of growth no matter what the groundhog sees in the morning.

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About the Author

Eija Sumner is the Strategic Communication Coordinator in the Office of Strategy, Planning, and Analysis (OSPA) at Washington State University.