For the purposes of background, I recently put a Strategic Plan together for an organisation. As is my practice when completing such documents, I always use the terms we, our, us in the document. This is at odds with the belief of others who will use the name of the organisation.
The reason I adopt this view is that it simply generates ownership of the document, the values, mission, vision and strategic goals contained in the plan. Any plan is essentially a reflection of the views of the people who prepared it. An organisation cannot prepare a document, only the people involved in the organisation.
My view was recently challenged by someone in an organisation and as a result I revisited my attitude on the practice. Whereas would one turn for guidance and opinion on such an issue than the collective wisdom and knowledge of ChatGPT.
The question asked of ChatGPT is a simple one. Should a strategic plan be written in the first or third person?
ChatGPT Response: A strategic plan is typically written in the third person. This is because the plan is intended to be an objective and unbiased document that outlines the goals, objectives, and strategies of an organization, rather than a personal statement or reflection.
Using the third person helps to maintain a professional tone and avoid any confusion about who is responsible for the plan. It also helps to convey a sense of objectivity and detachment from personal biases or opinions.
For example, instead of writing “I believe that we should focus on expanding our product line,” the plan would say “The company plans to focus on expanding its product line.” This way, the plan focuses on the organization’s goals and objectives, rather than individual opinions or preferences.
So, ChatGPT agrees with the individual raising this issue. In order to explore the matter further, I put the additional question to ChatGPT.
Prompt: If the plan is written in the third person, how do the people in the organisation have ownership and a vested interest in the plan? The strategies do not belong to them but the organisation.
ChatGPT Response: You make a valid point. Writing a strategic plan in the third person may create a sense of detachment among the people in the organization, and they may not feel a sense of ownership or investment in the plan. To create a sense of ownership, it’s important to involve the people in the planning process and ensure that their opinions and ideas are taken into account. This could involve conducting interviews, focus groups, or surveys to gather input and feedback from employees at all levels of the organization.
Additionally, the strategic plan can be written in a way that emphasizes the collective ownership and responsibility of the organization. For example, instead of using third-person pronouns, the plan could use “we” and “our” to refer to the organization as a whole. This can help create a sense of shared responsibility and investment in the plan among all members of the organization.
In summary, involving people in the planning process and using inclusive language in the plan can help create a sense of ownership and investment among the people in the organization, even if the plan is written in the third person.
Comment on Response
Having used ChatGPT and other similar tools over the last few months, I have never yet seen a response such as the one above where my views have been acknowledged as a valid alternative. ChatGPT has then gone on to explore the use of first person pronouns in a strategic plan context, but interestingly enough reverts to the use of third person in the final paragraph, almost as if it needs to justify its original position. Has ChatGPT changed its views? Perhaps not, but at least it has accepted my position as being valid.
I found this a fascinating conversation with ChatGPT and it certainly encourages me to consider prompts to challenge its responses in the future. It would be interesting to revisit the question in a month or six months time and see if ChatGPT has changed its views on the matter in an initial prompt.
The most important lesson here is to not just accept the answer ChatGPT and other AI models may provide but to challenge the responses with your own views and see what transpires. Have you had similar experiences? I would love to hear about them in the comments below.