Where are you going in 2019? Who knows about it?
The beginning of the year is often the time we start at least thinking about planning. Effective planning should be carried out systematically, documented and, very importantly, communicated to those involved in delivering it. This is usually most employees. Ironically, even when planning gets beyond being just thought about, it often fails in the implementation – when the people get involved.
So while you may have done your planning for 2019, have you just gone through the same old process? And do the people who matter know about it?
Most planning is normally carried out as an extension of what we did before – we move forward incrementally. This is quite natural but may not give us the best results. There is a better way, though it is more challenging.
Russell L Ackoff coined the term "idealised design" and it is a very powerful tool.
If we think about some of the things we typically plan for we tend to start with what we have, our budgets, our people, our equipment; and plan on how we may change or modify them. How many buildings have been added to, repaired and altered way past the point where someone should have made the decision to tear them down and build what is really needed? How many people do we recruit because that's the calibre that keeps on turning up.
While it is not often practical to throw out what we have, let's imagine we could.
A first step in planning effectively is to create a vision of what we would have if there were no constraints - as if the company had been destroyed and we were starting again. This approach lets us plan what we really want or what we really should have rather than making do with what we have and continually propping it up.
After developing this vision it's time to come back to reality. What really is the current situation? What are the issues? What is the competition doing? What are our constraints?
A thorough and systematic analysis of the current situation is probably the hardest part of planning but very necessary to see what we have working for us and what the challenges are.
Once we know where we are and where we want to be, we now need to set ourselves objectives to take us at least part of the way towards where we want to be. These objectives should be quite specific and measurable so there is no ambiguity. They may be large and difficult or small and simple, but they need to be clear.
This is where we need to get creative. This is the broad "how" we get to our objectives. Getting your people involved in this stage can be particularly useful. Creative ideas often come from the most unlikely sources and often from what should be the obvious – the place where the job is done – not necessarily the executive suite!
This is where the detail of what has to be done is decided – when it is going to happen and who is going to be responsible. Someone's name has to go alongside each step. These plans are then communicated and delegated to the appropriate people to make it all happen.
Our clients have made the comment that it was the planning sheets we provided that made the difference in turning their strategies into action plans which are "owned".
Involving relevant people in the planning process is important. And, letting all people responsible for delivering the plans know what is required is essential. In practice, most plans, if they are written in the first place, stay with the management team and tasks are allocated as they feel necessary – this is not the most effective process.
Imagine if all employees know what the vision is, what the key objectives are, what the strategies are. Would they feel involved? Would they get creative? Would they feel motivated? Maybe not all, but certainly there is more chance of this than if they were kept in the dark.
There is a sound commercial reason for this communication and involvement: there is plenty of research to show that engaged employees are more productive and are more likely to stay with an organisation. To become engaged, people need a sense of purpose and to feel they belong to an organisation that has a meaningful mission and goals.
Cascading the business objectives through the organisation and integrating them into individual employees' goals can make a massive difference to the performance of a business.
If employees can answer two key questions: "What are the key business objectives?" and "What, specifically, am I doing to contribute to them?" then they are likely to be able to make informed choices and decisions in the context of the total business, at whatever level their job is. This has got to be an improvement – and give your business a better chance of success in the year ahead.
If you would like some insights into Horizon’s strategic planning model, planning sheets and workshops, please get in touch.