Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Business planning from the back of a napkin to a formal and detailed presentation 4

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on February 22, 2016

This is my fourth posting to a series on tactical and strategic planning under real world constraints, and executing in the face of real world challenges that are caused by business systems friction and the systems turbulence that it creates (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3, postings 578 and loosely following for Parts 1-3.)

I have been discussing decisions made and actions taken in a business, and with a particular focus on problem identification and resolution, as this represents a context where rote, routine business as usual will not suffice. I stated that as a part of this larger narrative, I would at least briefly 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.

And I turn to that here and with a goal of at least starting that discussion, and by raising a point that is relevant to understanding the basic thrust and tenor of this series as a whole:

• Normative business processes and business-as-usual execution of them should be reviewed for relevance, efficiency and cost-effectiveness, and on an ongoing fixed-schedule basis.
• This due diligence effort might, for example, be carried out as part of regularly scheduled overall operational and strategic planning exercises (e.g. in coordination with annual executive level strategic planning exercises and feeding into them.) You need to know where you are before you can meaningfully plan out and prioritize for where you would go next, or for what you would move your business toward.
• But whenever your business has to deal with the unexpected and unplanned for, and either through strictly ad hoc solutions or the application of pre-planned but non-standard contingency processes, this calls for due diligence and risk management assessment and follow-through, and as part of the immediate post-event recovery process.

These issues strongly connect with the flow of discussion that I have been developing in a concurrently run series in this blog: Rethinking Exit and Entrance Strategies (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3, postings 559 and loosely following for its Parts 1-7.) And that series and this one will at least briefly converge with its upcoming Part 8, currently scheduled to go live to the blog on March 25, 2016. My planned focus of discussion there is:

• The differences in practice between event analysis while an event is still actively occurring, and event analysis as a post hoc, after the fact learning exercise.

My focus here is in many respects post-hoc analysis oriented. But I step back in this posting from during or after considerations per se, and from normative or exception handling per se to address the more foundational issues of business performance analysis as a whole. And this means at least relatively systematically working through a checklist of basic starter questions, and of new questions that arise from addressing them, some of which would be generic and repeatedly turned to, and some of which would be specific to the processes and events under immediate specific consideration.

• What do you look at and review here?

Be specific and focused in this analysis, and look into the details of your business to a depth of granularity that makes sense and offers value. If you are too quick and superficial here in what you review, you leave yourself with a vague and unfocused understanding of what you do and both normatively and when faced with exceptions handing challenges. But if you focus too finely, you lose focus too, from losing track of how all of those pieces fit together.

• What is the right level of resolution to look at here?

In most cases it will be the level of the individual business process followed and how its execution does and does not supportively connect into larger systems. For more normative processes and general business review purposes this means looking for business process bottlenecks and places where for whatever reason, slowdowns, communications and business flow breakdowns and other challenges seem to recur. And this means looking at both normal operations and at what might arise as outlier situations and exceptions to your day-to-day normal.

• What are they and how do they arise?
• Where do they arise and where do their consequences flow in your business systems?

Use your normative day-to-day as a benchmark standard for identifying where to look in detail. Use your normative day-to-day as a benchmark standard for understanding the specific processes that you do review, and focus on the ones that seem to be problematical at that normal operations level and on ones that seem to generate problematical exception outliers too often. Look for patterns in all of this that can be addressed by correcting and updating a process, by correcting where that process is carried out in your business operation and by whom, or by in some way eliminating it (either entirely or through outsourcing or similar approaches if this area of business function falls too far outside of your business’ primary strengths and its core business model needs.) Do you, for example need to move a basic business operation from one business area on the table of organization to another, that is more directly impacted by it, or that holds primary ownership and responsibility for key resources needed to carry it out?

• I will focus on exception handing in Part 8 of my Rethinking Exit and Entrance Strategies. And I simply note in anticipation of that posting that exceptions and outlier events can only be understood, and effective responses to them can only be planned for and carried out if you have a clear idea as to what your more normal is and how it functions. And that means carrying out the types of ongoing analyses and reviews that I am addressing here, so you have a baseline for identifying and understanding exceptions.

Up to here, I have primarily focused on business planning as it would apply to a business that is relatively stable, at least as far as its overall scale and market reach are concerned, and that is basically satisfied with that. I will turn to consider business growth and the scalability that enables that in my next series installment. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory.

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