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Like Prince Kūhiō, We Too Must Plan!


A Plan Doesn’t Matter If You’re Not Going to Use It!

By Ian Kealiʻi Custino

“We need a plan,” is a phrase you often hear people say. What does that really mean? If you're a business owner, entrepreneur or executive, it should mean a strategic process aligning deliverables to mission and stakeholder interests. Prince Kūhiō had a plan when he envisioned a better future for Kanaka. HRH Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniʻanaʻole was born on March 26, 1871 in Kōloa on the island of Kaua’i. An heir of Kaumuali’i, the last ali’i of Kaua’i before Kamehameha I, he was hānai by King David Kalākaua and his wife Queen Kapiʻolani who was Kūhiō’s maternal aunt. Kūhiō worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Kanaka. Kūhiō believed that the best way of “rehabilitating the race,” was to “place them back upon the soil.” Kūhiō’s plan was to firmly connect kanaka to their ‘āina. One of the most important ways he did this was with the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1921, ultimately creating the Department of Hawaiian Homelands.

The biggest caveat to strategic planning is that IT IS A PROCESS! Plans don’t grow on trees, and it’s not as easy as downloading a document from the internet. The 3 most important elements of a strategic plan are DEF:  Data, Engagement, and Follow-through. Your strategic planning process should be data driven, engage your stakeholders, and result in a plan that you and your stakeholders will follow-through on and continue to improve. 

Data looks different for every business. What businesses share is the need for data to define what we do based on our mission and how we do it in alignment with our vision, values and value propositions. 

Why is it important to engage our stakeholders in our planning process? Identifying who your stakeholders are is the first hurdle. Strictly speaking, anyone that touches your business is a stakeholder - from vendors to people who live in the community in which your business operates. Each brings a specific set of inputs from unique perspectives. The wider you cast your engagement net; the more diversity of perspectives you collect that has the potential to contribute valuable pearls of insight into making you the best at being you that you can be.

None of this matters if you’re not going to do anything about it. A good plan defines what you do and how to do it, but a great plan includes accountability. It’s important to identify benchmarks and a process that defines clear reporting on output and deliverables. Change management is often the “skeleton in the closet” in strategic planning: We don’t talk about it and when we do it’s vague, complicated, and scary. Plan for change! Talk about it and practice change management in small ways from the start of your process. This will get your teams used to using it and normalize dealing with change in a consistent and much more manageable way.

Ian is an NHCC member and co-owner of Together We Can (TWeC) Hawai’i, a Native Hawaiian-owned consultancy that works with organizations and businesses on strategic & business planning, project management and stakeholder & community engagement. Contact Ian at or 808.468.1686 ext 101 or online at or @twechawaii.