Thursday, July 8, 2021

Dynamic Planning

Good planning is goal-directed, purposeful, and intelligent, and all intelligent activities are planned to reach defined goals. 

The digital era upon us means rapid change, with an unprecedented level of uncertainty, unrepeatability, and unpredictability. To survive the “VUCA” new normal and thrive with the long-term business advantage involves dynamic planning, adjustment, and speed. Planning fallacy is a business reality but forward-thinking companies need to keep planning and improving to achieve management effectiveness. 

By practice, the planning process is a continuous cycle; that's part of the management process itself, thus, business executives should ask insightful questions to improve their planning skills and enforce strategic management discipline.

Will your planning beat the market?
The "view of the digital landscape” has many dimensions, rapid change and fierce competition is the reality. If you are not different, you are a commodity. This is the foundation on which brands are built. Strategic planning deals with horizontal scanning environmental and social monitoring, provides direction and outlines the preferred course of action; distributed sensing capability and knowing what to look for, how to set guidelines when to make choices for beating the market and building long-term business advantage. However, in most organizations, the amount of segregation and number of silos and the amount of internal and external competition (some healthy, some negative) today cause miscommunication and incohesive planning.

Plan is nothing, and planning is everything. Significant variation from the planned result may, in fact, be a signal that the original plan is flawed; that a major shift in the environment has occurred, which necessitates rethinking the plan, to embrace emerging properties and keep it updated. To outbeat the market, a coherent company enforces an iterative planning-action continuum and has a deliberately close alignment among the company’s strategic direction, its most distinctive capabilities, and most or all of its products and services, to execute capability-based strategic planning. A successful combination of short, middle term versus long term planning is as follows - Once the 'where are we' is analyzed; SWOT conducted, strategy is carved; planning is done in three horizons - short term, medium term, and long term.

Does your planning embrace uncertainty? Nonlinearity, hyperdiversity, information exponentiality, unpredictability, etc, are all causes of uncertainty. Uncertainty per se is not a problem, it poses a risk for those who have a fixed mindset and creates opportunities for those with a growth mindset. Uncertainty in the business or in any situation is a smoke cover for the opportunist to take the risk to advance in the direction of the goal. Some small changes in the initial conditions could have much larger and unpredictable consequences in the outcomes of the business system. The problem is not uncertainty rather it is unpreparedness towards the efficient handling of uncertainty.

To master the art and science of uncertainty management, business management needs to know which factors contribute to uncertainty and how to handle it effectively to adapt to the business dynamic and develop strategic planning to increase the probability for accelerating business performance. If the management can truly have a humble attitude to collect information and feedback, do enough preplanning, with necessary adjustment to fit the emerging situation, and broadly involve the organization in adapting, they are on the right track to manage uncertainty systematically.

Does your planning balance commitment and flexibility? Business ecosystem is dynamic, hyper-connected, nonlinear, expansive, and interdependent. The linear planning-execution scenario needs to be replaced by the iterative planning-action continuum. The point is to figure out the “right level” of planning, make the continual attention to changes in the business and its external ecosystem environment, and understand how this affects the future of the business. Strategic planning is a dynamic process, business leaders need to know how to leverage and prioritize, and they must consider the business relevant factors in order to create effective strategic planning, balance commitment and flexibility to enforce planning practicality.

It's human nature to embrace the easy things you like and attempt to ignore those that require work, discipline and change. But running a high mature organization is a complex thing and takes thoughtful planning and step-wise actions. By practice, translating strategic intent into dynamic planning then into meaningful action and making the needed changes stick can be difficult, doing it frequently and at a fast pace, even more so, but worth the effort. You don't really understand how to work together without some guiding principle and framework. It requires taking leaps of setting some of the right things in motion, and delicately balancing and rebalancing the results toward urgent, but hard to predict outcomes.

Is your planning granular about where to compete? In developing a fair strategic planning especially if done methodically and thinking about the SWOT analysis done, you've thought about all the risks and threats. The more you can clearly paint the image of why the company is in the situation it is in and provide the vision of a new world, the better it is. All too often though, the leader is forced to placate impatient stakeholders reacting to short-term concerns but ignoring the long-term perspectives. Business leaders need to discover the unique strength of their organization, and pinpoint where to compete and how to build their differentiated business advantage. You've anticipated that some things will happen in the near, short, and long-term that might be somewhat painful, but necessary to achieve the goals.

The plan has to be dynamic so that it can deal with changed conditions and unforeseen circumstances. One of the important statements in strategy is “where should you compete” - competing on cost, acquisitions, acquiring adjacent businesses, or launching incremental innovations; improving processes to implement the you can succeed where you choose to improve. Set market positioning by gaining a robust enough view of the future to enter new domains before they take off; launching major new products and platforms. The ultimate goal is to define the busines’s value proposition, clarify vision, and plan effectively to improve success rate of execution.

Is there conviction to act on your strategic planning? If you look at the most successful leaders, what is most common in their skills was the ability to articulate a vision, a way forward that everyone clearly understood, and there is conviction to act on strategic planning. Planning needs to be shareware that all evolving parties should agree with and take actions on it promptly. Some, especially chaotic situations require an "act, sense, respond" approach, and so the strategy is to act and find out what happens. The key thing is to align the company to the business dynamics or in short change management!

Statistically, the majority of people do not know their company’s strategy and only a special department takes care of planning issues without communicating broadly. The management needs to ponder: How many employees involved in the Strategic Planning process really feel full ownership? Probably not as many as top management would believe. The strategy is also a coherent plan to achieve specific goals through a series of mutually supportive and integrated actions. It's crucial to build the right team and empower them to implement the strategy. Act boldly, but be aware of risks. Each strategy should be assessed against the organization's risk tolerance rather than a target date. Boils down to risk appetite and management risks with intelligence.

The degree of planning has a positive correlation with the degree of uncertainty and unpredictability. Good planning is goal-directed, purposeful, and intelligent, and all intelligent activities are planned to reach defined goals. Business executives need to play the strategic leadership role with broader leadership responsibilities, make proactive planning and orchestrate organizational transformation consistently.


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