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Protesting: Having An Objective
"A Goal Without A Plan Is Just A Wish"

Posted by Charlie Recksieck on 2020-06-25
Last week in my blog post, I talked at length about one of the best managers/supervisors I'd ever seen. Although he was more artful about it than literally asking this question every time, the crux of all of his management was asking employees "How can I help you do your job?"

I wanted to recast that question just a little bit in the wake of protests all across the country for Black Lives Matter and against racist policing practices. When we see a protest, a natural question that might arise would be "What do the protestors want?

As Related To Black Lives Matter

I'm hesitant to "whitesplain" the motivation and the meaning of the Black Lives Matter movement, given that I'm a man born of relative privilege - and given what I said a few weeks ago and feel about people like me lecturing or summarizing the movement - when it comes to #BLM in particular, it seems like the first order of business is to hear/listen first, learn/digest second and speak third.

That said, I don't want to critique people in the streets just wanting to be heard (for once) without an explicit goal. Demonstrating can be a release of lifetimes of frustration and rage at being mistreating. Dave Chappelle made this point, among many other great ones here. If you haven't watched that, I really encourage you to watch and listen.

It seems that during #BLM protests, speeches and marches there is a mix of outrage and activism going on. And within the activism, there are a variety of concrete policy demands like banning chokeholds, taking certain duties that could go to social workers off the police's plate, decriminalizing minor drug possession, reduce jails, demilitarizing police, etc. - if you think or read for a few minutes, it's easy to come up with a list of 15-20 things this is about.

Herm Edwards

There's a quote from NFL football coach / analyst Herm Edwards that I absolutely love: "A goal without a plan is just a wish."

Granted, that quote is more commonly attributed to French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery. But I first heard it from Herm Edwards, and I’m gonna stick with Herm this week - including the photo at the top of this article.


When it comes to protests and having goals, I really recommend a read of this article aimed at activists. In that primer, they break down good activism into six components: 1) Vision, 2) Goals, 3) Objectives, 4) Targets, 5) Tactics, and 6) Measures of success.

In keeping with the current protests, a "vision" might be to end racism. But good luck to anyone thinking that’s a one-step process.

Or to put it the Herm Edwards way ("A goal without a plan is just a wish"), marching to end racism is the "wish", but goals and plans are what’s going to move the needle. Or to apply a football analogy oft-used in politics, goals and plans are what "move the ball, one yard at a time."

Multiple Goals For Multiple People

I'm certainly not suggesting that every person in a protest has to have the exact same reasons for demonstrating. It's impossible to get consensus from 100 people on anything. There still can be MULTIPLE specific, measurable goals within one movement.

Though the danger is that without SOME focus, then a 100-person protest would have 100 people asking for 100 different things. This is brilliantly represented in a short scene in one of the deepest and most underrated comedies of all time (IMHO), I Heart Huckabees.

An Engineer's Take On The Situation

Professionally, I hate to be involved in projects where success can't be measured. I love a good project post mortem. One of the things about golf that make it so obsessive is that you end up with a score to tell you how well you did.

To me, it's a bit of a "tell" if you have a goal or objective but there's no way to measure it.

Cognitive Therapy

I'll leave it here without presuming to be a #BLM spokesman. There are plenty of things I personally want to see changed that are aligned with the movement. But that's not why I chose to write about this for this week's post.

I'm just trying to stress a general policy of having a goal. Let me put this in terms of psychology and depression. If I'm feeling unhappy and talking to a therapist, I want one of two things to happen - or both: 1) I just want to give voice to my feelings and be heard, and 2) I want the therapist to help me with some cognitive behavioral therapy.

So, whether we are listening to protestors or a therapist is listening to a patient, or a friend giving another friend a shoulder to cry on: it's all kind of a two-part process. Listen/validate. Then perhaps move on to what can we do about it.