An intriguing question that usually raises eyebrows and generates a "tell me more..." reaction. The reality is that we haven't often mixed the corporate stuff with our home lives and certainly not our marriage - but why haven't we?
For so many of us who work for corporations or are part of the business world, some ways of working are deeply engrained and almost second habit in our working lives. Take for example planning - Annual Planning or Strategic Planning. This is the bread-and-butter basics of explicitly agreeing where you are today, where you want to get to, and how you are going to get there. Yet how often do you hear of a couple pulling together to do their annual plan at home? Or their strategic plan? Not very often.
In fact, in a study commissioned by The Marriage Development Company, only 9% of couples claimed that they regularly conduct annual and/or strategic planning at home. Not that surprising, but it does beg the question of why not? Imagine trying to have an effective and efficient team at work without having a plan to map out overall goals and the role of individual's activities in helping to achieve these goals.
My observation is that many couples feel so busy and overwhelmed with their day-to-day activities that they haven't had or taken the time to think about the bigger picture and where they are heading. Many instinctively know that they should have a better idea of where they are going, or may even sense that they may not really be aligned with their partner on what their key priorities are for the 1, 5, or 10 years ahead, but they don't seem to get around to having the conversations to work it through. In contrast, at work we often have the benefit of structured processes that force this discipline - eg. an annual and strategic planning cycle to agree budgets, etc. At home, unless we create this discipline, there will always be urgent or other "stuff" that takes up our time and the planning falls to the wayside.
I often reference Dr. Stephen Covey (author The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) and his 2x2 matrix of activities allocated along the axes of Urgent-Not Urgent and Important-Not Important as an illustration of how Important but not Urgent activities (like planning) will only be addressed if we consciously set aside time for them. This is especially relevant for couples where the chances that two busy people will have spare time simultaneously and spontaneously agree to use it for planning is not that likely! It's like trying to plan your business through a series of random conversations as you pass in the hallway or meet at the water cooler, rather than setting aside quality time through robust meetings and conversations.
Through our workshops, it's been satisfying to see how much benefit couples are reaping from introducing a (simplified) annual and strategic planning process into their ways of working at home.
- It makes the plan explicit and creates a common "language" - rather than 2 different "assumed" plans in each partner's head.
- It helps communication - the very nature of it being explicit helps to identify points of agreement and differences that encourages robust and productive conversations.
- It encourages the discipline of thinking a bit further out - rather than dealing tactically with actions on a daily or weekly basis. This helps to create a common road map and sets a joint direction.
- It helps prioritization, enabling couples to jointly choose where to spend their scarce time and money.
- It becomes part of a virtuous cycle where year on year couples can take stock, learn from the past year, and agree their plans going forwards.
So it would seem that couples are finding that marriage and business strategy can mix and indeed mix well!