Three Keys to Effective Planning: Part I
Over the past many years of facilitating senior leadership groups in strategic planning sessions, three key activities rise to the top of the list for getting needed focus and resolve. They are: understanding the predictable consequences of the current state of things (and of the desired future state), identifying issues/obstacles which may impede progress on key objectives and finally, clear articulation of what needs to stop to clear the way for organizational priorities.
These three exercises may be done in any order and while they do overlap, they do so in a way that strengthens the usefulness of each. Let’s take a closer look.
Typically, identifying issues/obstacles comes right after the establishment and prioritization of key objectives for the planning cycle (simply put, what is it we need to accomplish to move the enterprise forward). Deciding what we’d like to do is usually not that difficult. Many times, the goals are ones that the business would have liked to accomplish in the past. But something was in the way. So, for each objective, we spend a considerable amount of time identifying what’s “in the way” so that it may be understood, neutralized, overcome, removed. These obstacles may be internal (people, processes, resources, etc.) or external such as market conditions, cost of capital, competition, hiring needs, etc.
This sets the stage for a robust discussion. These may be items that have been around for a while but for any number of reasons, were never effectively addressed. This often means coming to terms with limitations or problems inside the business that are uncomfortable to discuss. These may be organizational competencies which are lacking, or people in key positions who lack the attitude and/or aptitude to adjust to changing requirements. As with any other attempt to get at the real issues, sound facilitation can help the leadership team dial in on these matters in a safe environment and in a way that will maintain the integrity of everyone involved.
It makes little sense to create a plan that has only a modest chance for success. Frustrations build and the team can lose confidence in the leadership team and its ability to plan and execute effectively. Identifying obstacles to progress and dedicating time, energy and resources in addressing them directly, can clear the way for higher levels of satisfaction and success.
Next time, we’ll take a close look at ways to anticipate the natural consequences of the plan and ways to proactively address them.
For more information on ways to improve your planning process, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., CAE, is the Founder and Principal of Alexander Joseph Associates, a privately held consultancy specializing in executive business advisory services with clients throughout the graphic communications industry.
Joe spent 30 years with NAPL, including 11 years as President and CEO. He is an adjunct professor at NYU teaching graduate courses in Executive Leadership; Financial Management and Analysis; Finance for Marketing Decisions; and Leadership: The C Suite Perspective. He may be reached at Joe@ajstrategy.com. Phone or text: (201) 394-8160.