Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Business planning from the back of a napkin to a formal and detailed presentation 1

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 12, 2015

Tactical planning is often, and even usually short term and immediate-context oriented, and even when it simply follows established practices and policies. Instances in which a specific need for this type of tactical response arise, generally do so in more constrained short-term timeframes. And they generally have to be addressed within a relatively immediate here-and-now. And then the people who carry out one of these tactically planned and executed tasks or sets of them move on.

Strategy usually offers longer timeframes for preparation, with opportunity for more protracted development and refinement of plans arrived at, and with those plans more general in focus and more long-term oriented. But even there, rapidly developing circumstances can telescope in the time and opportunity allowed for all of this too.

And to cite two perhaps obvious points on a continuum of opportunity here, consider regularly scheduled senior executive five year-forward planning exercises. And now consider immediate here-and-now challenges where those same executives, or managers who report to them on the table of organization, have to deal with a perhaps off-hours rapidly emerging unplanned for crisis. Or they face a sudden unexpected emergent opportunity that cannot wait long enough for more leisurely consideration if its potential value is to be realized. Planning and its requirements cannot always be planned for in advance, and either on a more strictly tactical or a more strictly strategic level.

• My goal for this posting is to at least start a discussion of the process of planning, as it can be shaped by both timing constraints and by information availability constraints, and also by communications constraints.

Let’s consider my briefly noted middle of the night challenge or opportunity from the above paragraph, where decisions have to be made, and at least first step responses will have to be initiated – before all of the more senior managers who would want to be in the loop for this can be contacted, let alone brought up to speed on what is happening, and before they can have time to individually reflect on how best to respond – and with all of that information sharing and decision making (ideally, perhaps) having opportunity to filter first up, and then back down a chain of command for a table of organization.

• Tactical is operational, and it is more context and situation-specific and certainly in its execution.
• Tactical might be, and where possible should be grounded in larger-scale, longer term strategic planning. And that is how such here-and-now decisions are usually made and executed upon in a well-run organization, and certainly on a routine day-by-day basis. They are grounded upon strategically considered and operationally vetted and validated precedence.
• And one goal of those five year strategic planning exercises, as noted above, is usually to systematically understand and incorporate lessons learned from where tactical decisions have had to be made on a more immediate-need ad hoc basis, so the next time the circumstances that led to them arise, they can be addressed through processes already in place and hopefully tested and vetted – and even if they do arise during off-hours and in the middle of a weekend night.
• But when I propose this as a working model of how an organization and its people perform together, that represents a vision of an ideal, where reality can impose deviations from it and even significant ones.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next installment, where I will discuss planning as it can be organized and carried out without being overtly restricted by timing constraints or information availability constraints, or by communications constraints. Consider that the baseline model of how tactical and strategic planning would at least ideally be carried out.

After outlining and presenting that default model, I will begin adding in those constraints and examining their impact, and on both what is immediately done and on resultant follow-through coming from it. I will discuss after-the-fact, post hoc review and learning curve issues and processes for moving forward, and particularly where it has proven necessary to make one-off and ad hoc decisions and then deal with any unexpected consequences that result from them.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 3, and also see Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory.


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