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The Best Laid Schemes Sometimes Require a Pivot

The Best Laid Schemes Sometimes Require a Pivot

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. – Proverbs 16:9


Four and a half years ago, My Cup of Tea adopted a strategic plan to serve as the road map for the next five years. We interviewed leaders, volunteers, donors, and employees. We analyzed strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. We imagined and wrote down ambitious goals and the objectives necessary to achieve them. Then we estimated the costs associated and drafted a pro forma. Finally, we fashioned the pages to be aesthetically pleasing and printed and bound it at FedEx Office. That’s pretty close to textbook planning process.

But in the words of the poet Robert Burns:

“The best laid schemes of mice and men,

Go often awry.”

This is not to say that the plan was completely wrong or that there were no successes. In fact, sales of tea increased very closely to the projected rate; we transitioned to a larger facility we call The House; and secured record-setting support from local foundations and corporations. And these are just a few of our “gold stars.”

But we missed the mark too. We were almost certain My Cup of Tea products would be on the shelves of our local Whole Foods or Kroger. That didn’t happen.

We anticipated the steady and competent leadership of two employees who were in supervisory roles. Instead, neither are with us today.

We expected that most of the women working with us would transition to full-time jobs elsewhere since that was a primary component of our mission. What we learned, though, is that most didn’t want to leave My Cup of Tea. They valued the safety, the break from the chaos of their lives and the authentic sisterhood more than the possibility of a full-time job. This is not to say they are content to work part-time and struggle to make ends meet, but after months or years on the job, they had reordered their priorities. So, we reordered ours.

Halfway through the implementation of our plan, we pivoted from a mission to transition women to full-time work away from My Cup of Tea to a strategy where women could work for as a long as they want. We “doubled-down” on serving them in ways beyond simply providing a paycheck. And we committed to trying to grow our tea business to a point that we could be the employer capable of sustaining full-time employees.

Now, we are writing a new plan for the next five years. But why, if we got so many things wrong in the original plan? Proverbs 21:5 tells us,

“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”

We desire abundance for the women at My Cup of Tea, not just economically, but in relation to equity, justice and the joy that comes from a deepening relationship with God.

Proverbs 15:22 says,

“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”

So, we have assembled a broader group of stakeholders that represent our leadership, employees, volunteers, donors, and the Orange Mound community to help us design this new road map.

In To a Mouse, Robert Burns’ fatalistic axiom about the plans of mice and men is born out of his lament that his plough has upended the home of this tiny field mouse. But Burns’ larger point is that the plans of humankind are made in vain since no one can know what will happen. He believes his own prospects to be dim based on his struggles in the past.

It is true that we can’t know what will happen in the future and that sometimes what does happen will be hard and even painful. But unlike Burns, we believe our plans have purpose, and we are not victims to fate. We trust in a God who establishes our steps and makes our paths straight.

So, we will plan our work, work our plan, and pivot as the Lord directs.