Consensus is one of the forms of decision making. When the members of a group commit to a decision by acceptance without a formal vote there is consensus. Although the decision may not be exactly what any individual initially wanted, each person agrees to "live with" the decision and support the activities that follow as a consequence of that decision.


The environment is the total of all the "influences" that that can affect the planning group and it's efforts to achieve planned objectives. Sometimes referred to as "Actors and Factors". Actors to remind us that people within and outside the planning group have a profound influence on the plan and it's execution. Factors, like physical and social climate, the economy, to remind us that they too have similar influence on our efforts.

Future Search

Future search is a structured planning meeting that makes possible actions once thought beyond reach in large, divers groups. These include projects and programs based on new forms of cooperation devised by participants. This approach is popular in non-business communities. In Future search the emphasis is to "leap forward" in time to identify the desired future condition and work back to find ways to reach that situation.


The terms "goal" and "objective" seem to be used interchangeably. The term goal usually implies a "high level" objective. The term higher level implies the idea of the hierarchy of objectives



The mission statement is a description of the intention to create, achieve, deliver or foster "what should be". It's the fundamental reason for your or your organization's existence. Stephen Covey says that empowering missions are ones that come from the hearts and minds of all the stakeholders, are based on shared values and principles, and describe a contribution of some kind to society. He says that they should state in measurable terms where you are going, and how you will know when you have arrived. So, the mission is a statement of purpose - why you or your organization exist. 

The mission statement for an organization will often remain valid for many years. However, the goal or goals will be revisited every year or so as each goal is accomplished. The mission statement for an electrical authority in one country reads:

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"To give reliable and adequate supplies of electricity at affordable prices wherever it is economically possible to so."

Problems usually arise when we seek clarification of; "reliable", "adequate", "affordable" and "economically possible". In fact, these will no doubt change over time. For example, what is affordable to one section of the population may not be affordable to another.


One definition of an objective is a "future desirable condition". Often there is a hierarchy of objectives. In this case we can say:

Achieving "lower level objectives" will lead to achieving "higher level objectives" For example, if we achieve good examination results (low level) it should lead to getting a better job (higher level),

and if we achieve all our objectives it should lead to us achieving our goal.

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There is no limit to the number of levels of objective, however in practice it is usually limited to 3 levels. For example, one set of terminology which is used in one version of the   is:

  • Goal  (highest level objective)

  • Purpose (intermediate level objective)

  • Output (lowest level objective)

All three terms, goal, purpose and output are in fact objectives.

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Open Space

Open space was a precursors to Future search. It is far less structured than most other methods. There is no preset agenda other than the topic previously agreed to and the time allotted to the meeting. There are no planned panel discussions and no plenary sessions. The agenda is created through the facilitator inviting everyone present to nominate issues that he or she feels strongly about and is prepared to take responsibility for.


The essential features of a process are:

  • there are several steps, each step will involve a number of activities

  • all steps must be executed

  • the steps MUST be executed in the correct order

  • if the order is incorrect, or if any step is compromised, all following steps of the process will be compromised


Strategic Objectives

Strategic objectives can be thought of as: "The most ambitious result or objective that a group or organization can materially affect and for which it is willing to be held accountable". Typically the strategic objectives are the means to achieve the mission of the organization. These objectives are not necessarily quantified or time-bound.

Sometimes the term "strategy" is used to describe a particular set of objectives that will be perused to achieve a higher level objective. For example, the objectives analysis in the LFA approach may reveal 8 possible objectives that the project might pursue. In the alternatives analysis step a particular set of say, objectives 1, 3, 5 and 8 might be selected as being the "best" set of objectives to achieve the higher level objective.


SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats)

This approach is popular in business environments. It seeks to identify what the organization is currently doing well (strengths), what it is not doing well (weaknesses), what market conditions can be exploited to advantage (opportunities) and what factors, internal and external  can derail the organization's efforts (threats).

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Values are those "intangible" beliefs, feelings, and notions that are part of us because of our family upbringing, our school, our religious and cultural heritage, our work environment and many other factors. They help us understand how important to us are things like; friends, family, belonging to a group, job satisfaction,  financial security, leisure time, commute time, and work stress. These will be different for each individual but in a community there are usually a group of them that are considered "shared". This shared set of values are the core values on which the vision is built.


In this context a vision means a description of preferred future conditions. It is a detailed image of "what should be", The vision is that ideal state or future toward which you or your organization are dedicated/committed.

This vision of the future is based on the values of the group of people attempting to define the vision. Since people's values are different, it is necessary to find a "collective" vision that satisfies, as closely as possible, the values of the people seeking the vision. However, this diversity of values makes defining the vision a challenge and can be the most difficult part of the process

This need to find a collective vision leads to the need for consensus decision making.

Often the vision is not so specific that it specifies changes in measurable terms. For example a vision statement might say:

"Make the working condition is this workplace safe and healthy for all workers"

ZOPP/OOPP/Logical Framework Approach

The Logical Framework Approach (LFA), also referred to as Objectives Oriented Project Planning (OOPP) and in German as Ziel Orientierte Projek Planung (ZOPP) is a structured meeting process. This approach seeks to identify the major current problems using cause-effect analysis and search for the best strategy to alleviate those identified problems.   This topic is dealt with in more detail on the main page: Logical Framework Approach

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