Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Business planning from the back of a napkin to a formal and detailed presentation 7

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 28, 2016

This is my seventh 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 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 578 and loosely following for Parts 1-6.)

I began addressing a series of three basic due diligence questions in Part 6, related to fundamental change:

1. As a business leader, how can you better know when the enterprise that you run is heading in the direction of genuine need for that?
2. If you do in fact see need for fundamental change, how can you best determine what you should shift your basic underlying business model toward?
3. And how should you best plan out and execute an effective transformation process that will lead your business to that goal?

I addressed the first of this set of questions in Part 6, and ended that posting with a presumption that a genuine need for fundamental change is in fact needed – creating real impetus to ask the second and third questions too. And with that first question’s answer assumed in this continuation of Part 6’s narrative, I at least begin to address the second of those questions with a business-specific, case in point observation:

• You can see a gradual deterioration of your business’ overall competitive strength and resiliency, and see need for significant change in addressing that emerging challenge. And you want to carry through in addressing that before your business can hit anything like the problematical critical mass and tipping point that I raised the specter of in Part 6. How can you effectively determine what you should shift your basic underlying business model towards, to course correct and shift your business back to a more stable path?

This is an area of business development planning and execution where the details are crucial, and for:

• What type of business and business model are under consideration,
• How that business has executed on its business model, with its strategic goals and planning and its operational systems and practices in place,
• And as they are actually carried through upon, and not just for what might be more formally there on paper, but that might be honored more in the breech than in the promise. Actual business processes and practices followed, day-to-day mean a lot more here than do any plans or intentions that are mostly just intended but that are never actually followed.
• What is the basic industry like that this business competes in? How fast-paced and innovation driven is it?
• What is that industry’s basic marketplace like and how demanding are its customers and potential customers for new and different and for better and better and better, and at better and better prices too?

Depending on the business and industry under consideration, questions about regulatory oversight, and a variety of other business and performance shaping factors might be added to this brief list, and that still leaves me focusing entirely on generic, starter questions.

And the basic question that I am headed towards with these questions and with more business-specific ones added in is simple:

• You know that the enterprise that you run is heading in the direction of genuine need for change and you have concluded that more fundamental change is needed: not just superficial band aide-like adjustments to the systems and processes in place and to the basic assumptions that shape them. How fundamental a change do you need to make?
• And in immediate follow-up to that, what areas of your business are stable and in ways that you can re-envision and rebuild from, for the functional areas where real change is needed? What are your stable points and where do you in fact need to make this change, rebuilding out from them?

My second question, as repeated above was: “if you do in fact see need for fundamental change, how can you best determine what you should shift your basic underlying business model toward?” In order to answer that, you need to know more precisely where you are starting from, and as your business is actually carried out and run, and not simply as your business is supposed to be, where that is different from your actual practice.

This brings me to another fundamental question that I would include here in addressing question number two:

• Where does your business generally adhere to planning and processes that are formally in place, and where does actual business practice tend to deviate from that, and either according to some relatively standardized work-around, or on a more one-off, ad hoc basis?

Points of departure from the “official and approved” here, are among the strongest indicators available for identifying and mapping out specific places in a business where real change is needed. They represent fundamental breakdown points in the basic business model in place, and its operational systems, and fundamental gaps in the strategy in place and in how that is maintained and updated to meet changing needs and opportunities.

• When you know where change is specifically needed,
• And you know the overall intended goals that such an area or aspect of the business should be achieving,
• This understanding can serve as a road map for determining what you have to move your business toward through remediative change,
• And both strategically so that your intended strategy in place can become more practical and more effectively focused,
• And operationally, so that the business processes and procedures that are in place actually work as intended.

I am going to finish this posting by at least briefly touching upon some of the factors that can significantly contribute to the types of disconnects that I write of here, focusing on a few of the more commonly recurring entries to that list, at least as I have observed them.

• Do you have processes and procedures, or strategic goals and strategically planned for performance expectations that were promulgated and passed down as if from on high, and without benefit of real-world feedback and insight from the people who work at the levels of the table of organization where they would be carried out? Has a pattern of this type of top-down only management, become a long-term tradition for your business?
• Do you have employee turnover problems with your more experienced people leaving before they can more fully bring their newer colleagues up to speed? Are you losing the people that your business and its employees should be able to turn to, for their depth of knowledge and experience there, and who would know when similar challenges have arisen there before, when an unexpected problem arises in your here and now? Do your personnel and employee retention and hiring processes in some way directly cause this?
• How is your employee training and your new hire onboarding? Way too many businesses take too much of a sink or swim approach to new hires, forgetting that if a new hire cannot swim fast enough when coming into the business, the part of your business that they were hired to perform at does that sinking too. This might be more apparent for more crucial needs hires – but it is in fact important for all new hires. [Think of new hires in general, as brought in across your entire (here large) business enterprise: tiny sinkings here there and seemingly everywhere, as all of these people struggle through their individual new hire learning curves, at least holds potential for avoidably creating what amounts to death by a thousand cuts, for your business’ overall competitive effectiveness.]
• How effective are communications in your business, and both within and between office and other business locations, where that enterprise is geographically dispersed? Poor communications lead to friction, and that by its very nature promotes the development of work-arounds to just get things done, and certainly when all of the necessary information needed and all of the necessary resources cannot be available on time. And communications failures lead to and cause gaps in timely availability of other types of resource too, completing that circle here.

If you know where you have break-downs in your business and its systems, this makes it possible to map out causal patterns in them and find and identify root causes. And when you find them, and map out what these processes and business process subsystems should be doing, you can map out precisely what they should be brought to do and effectively and efficiently. And this brings me directly to that third numbered question at the top of this posting:

3. And how should you best plan out and execute an effective transformation process that will lead your business to that goal?

I will explicitly address that in my next series installment. Then after that, I will turn this overall discussion to consider scalability and related issues. 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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