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How Airport Security Can Help Guide Your Organization's Strategic Plan


Recently, I read a book by a former colleague and very wise man, Don Eggleston, M. Ed, M. Div. Don is the founder of Mission Works, LLC, and previously served as the vice president of Mission Integration for SSM Health in St. Louis, MO. His book, titled With All We Are, is a short but very poignant collection of thoughts based on Don’s experience in an airport. When stopped by security personnel, he was asked four questions:

  • Who are you?
  • Where are you coming from?
  • Where are you going?
  • Why are you going there?

Don’s book provides great wisdom for individuals who want to be effective and lead mission-driven lives. As a strategic planning leader, I couldn’t help but put each item in the context of what organizations can do to be successful. 

Who are you?

It’s pretty straightforward--ask each question about your organization.  Do you really know who you are? Do you know what your customers and those you wish were your customers think about you?

Who do your employees think you are? When was the last time you took the time to ask? A simple digital survey, done anonymously, can provide very valuable information to give guidance on what you are doing well and what you might want to change.

Culture is a big part of who you are. What culture do you want? How do your employees describe your current culture? Ensuring that your culture is a positive one that allows each employee to maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses will contribute to a positive answer to the Who are you? question.

Where are you coming from?

Knowing your long-term history and, more importantly, your recent experience are great topics to examine. Long-term history can provide good insight into the company mission and vision along with trends that have brought you to where you are today. Examining your recent experience will include important metrics about results.

Data is only as good as your ability to analyze it. If you don’t have that expertise, contract with experts who do. Turn “big data” into understandable data – data that managers have easy access to on a regular basis that truly becomes management information. A reflection on the previous period, whether year, quarter or month, is critical to know where you are coming from. Using real-time, actionable data and analysis is the difference between those who know where they are coming from and those who wander aimlessly or run their organization or department by the seat of their pants.

Where are you going?

As the famous saying goes, “If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?” More importantly, if your entire team doesn’t know where you are going, they are likely to each go a different direction. In many organizations that experience a lack of direction, it not only prevents organizational success, but it also wastes resources and leads to employee frustration. With a unified goal and one road map to get there, each department and each employee can identify their unique role in the journey. With a living document (rather than one that sits on a shelf) that aligns to departmental and employee performance metrics, individuals can and should know the purpose in their daily tasks. The purpose should be to move more closely to the desired goal, the “Where are you going?” destination.

Why are you going there?

To answer where you are going, the organization needs to define what success looks like. What is your target? Ultimate success should be reflected in the vision and mission statements. Revisiting those regularly and ensuring that each employee understands them, can recite them and buys into them will create a team working toward the same mission. If your employees can’t recite them, you probably need to edit them to be shorter, more meaningful and more memorable.  Short-term success should be defined in the goals and objectives of each strategic imperative. SMART goals – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-specific – will help your organization get where you want to go. Each goal achieved is one step closer to mission accomplished!

I recommend that you read Don’s book. It’s well worth your time. And when you do, think of how you can use the insight to guide your own life plan. If you are a leader in your organization, use it to help with your organization’s strategic plan. If you need help answering those questions for your organization, reach me at

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