The Beautiful Loop

The Beautiful Loop is a planning process. It uses visual thinking to foster creative collaboration and create person driven plans for people with disabilities.
As it is currently practiced, planning is very linear and lacks continuity. Plans are generally built on an annual basis. Short term goals are completed in a couple of months and left to wilt. Long term goals, such as moving into a new house, lose momentum over time because of staff turnover and other pitfalls. The Beautiful Loop is a simple and elegant tool that helps to keep us learning and moving in the right direction.


The key is asking the right questions. System driven plans ask, “Why are you so noncompliant?” Person driven plans ask, “What do you want your life to be like?”
Who we ask is also important. The behavior specialist’s input is important, but first and foremost we have to ask the person who we are planning with. The person takes part to the fullest of their ability and willingness. Other input is sought from people who know and care for the person, as well as those whose clinical perspectives ensure health and safety. The completed plan should balance these two aspects.

There are millions of questions that we can ask that will help move us towards a person driven plan.


Finding answers to these questions takes creativity and persistence. Here is where the visual thinking really shines through. Graphic templates, art projects/posters and other tools help us gather truly useful information and engage people traditionally excluded from the process.


We are good at this. And we often get stalled here. In my view of planning, our analysis should simply be identifying what the planning priorities are. Sometimes this takes the form of creating an agenda before the meeting. Other times it’s simply circling some important ideas on a big sheet of paper in the meeting itself.


Taking action is always the weak link in the planning process. Too often the finished plan is signed, three-hole-punched and sent to solitary confinement in a case record somewhere. Graphic action planning templates help teams visualize the goal and the steps to get there. They help the person be engaged in the process, making the plan inclusive. They also become great tools for building accountability. I encourage teams to keep the posters visible, as a powerful reminder of the vision and a omnipresent to-do list.


Once we have completed the initial planning process, we begin the Loop again. Now we are asking new questions: How’s the plan going? What are learning? What can we make better? What did we miss?

And The Beautiful Loop begins anew.