Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Business planning from the back of a napkin to a formal and detailed presentation 8

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on June 30, 2016

This is my eighth 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 1-7.)

I have been discussing a set of three change remediation questions in this series, over the course of the past several installments to it:

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 change, and particularly fundamental change? (See Part 6.)
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? (See Part 7.)
3. And how should you best plan out and execute an effective transformation process that will lead your business to that goal?

My goal for this posting is to at least open up a discussion of the third of those questions, and the process of remediation itself:

• With selection of which possible actions should be taken,
• Coupled with a systematic planning process that would lead to determination of how to proceed in that and with what priorities.

I have, in fact been presenting a series of tools and approaches in this blog, that I would suggest as appropriate for that. So at least as a starting point for this posting and its main line of discussion, I list some of the more relevant resources and approaches that I have explored in this blog, that collectively offer at least a beginning tool set here. And I focus here on more non-standard tools, that would of course be supplemented with and used in conjunction with more standard, more widely known and used ones.

I begin this by noting a point that I made in Part 7 that is crucially important, if the goal is to effect positive change with a minimum of false starts as they can and do arise from false assumptions.

• What a business does operationally, and even what it stands for and seeks to do as a matter of realized principle and day-to-day practice, can be very different from what it proclaims itself to do and be, as laid out in its business model and its formal ongoing business plan. “Official” processes and practices that are held up as desired patterns and standards can be honored more in the breech than in the promise, and can with time come to be so routinely worked around and bypassed as to be functionally meaningless – except insofar as their documentation can complicate corrective change and particularly when practices actually followed are never actually written down or formally acknowledged.
• And this leads me to offer tools such as causal linkage analysis maps, where a business process reviewer sets aside the process descriptions and labels per se (at least as key considerations) to identify and track where decision and action flows actually take place and with what stakeholders actually involved. (See Intentional Management 30: contextual management 8 and evolutionary and revolutionary change 3, and Part 31 and Part 32 of that series, with more on this topic to be added there.)

And another set of tools that I would explicitly offer here is laid out in a second, also concurrently running series: Rethinking Exit and Entrance Strategies, where I outline and discuss real-time and post hoc analyses and reviews (that take place during, and after an emergently notable event respectively.) See that series’ Part 9 and Part 10 in particular.

I note with that toolset in mind that too often, business process reviews and analyses only take place as a high-level exercise. And that when they dig deeper into specific business processes and their outcomes as arise lower down on the table of organization, they focus more on where overt problems have emerged and less on the wider contexts of those overt incidents – and both across their system of operational processes and activities and over time.

Tools and toolsets of the type that I offer here are not the only resources that can offer value here. But it is important to take a wider ranging approach when seeking to understand and improve upon problem areas in a business – and it is vitally important to focus on what is actually done. Tunnel vision might lead to faster results, in addressing specific overt problems and their emergence, but it can only lead to short-term band aide solutions and not to true resolutions of anything.

In anticipation of a possible side consideration, that I would expect at least some readers to make note of here, sometimes an officially recognized and supported business process and approach is fundamentally sound – but is fundamentally violated, and by a new employee (who needs better onboarding training) or by a perhaps long-standing employee who has chosen (at least this one time) to cut corners. Even here, if you understand how and where a breakdown has occurred and you approach that with an open mind – rather than defensively and in support of the current status quo, you need to ask process improvement questions.

• How is this (presumably sound) process or procedure outlined and presented for how and why it needs to be followed? How are employees and managers trained for this part of the business?
• What resources are needed in order to carry out this process, and complete a successful hand-off to any next in line process that would follow from it? And perhaps more importantly, what is collaterally done and how, to make sure that those resources are actually going to be available when and where they are needed? This definitely includes human assets and co-worker support as well as material resources. And when I noted a “perhaps long-standing employee” just above, who breaks protocol and does not follow an established process, sometimes this happens because a lack of resources or hand-off opportunity make that standard process effectively unavailable at least then and there, where it is immediately needed and when something has to be done.

The tools that I make note of here, are all designed to help frame a review and analysis and a subsequent remediation in a wider perspective, where most standard tools are more focused on the immediate problem at hand. Use standard tools here, as well as any more specialized ones as I outline and touch upon here. And clearly document what you do in your reviews and analyses of ongoing business performance. If you leave out details in this, you have to assume that their absence will prove crucial when and as you find need to look back and review prior efforts of this type when facing new need for performance reviews and analyses. And at least periodically review your systems on an ongoing and regular basis, and not just from the perspective of the executive suite.

I am going to shift directions in my next series installment to reconsider scalability, but this time in the context of this specific series. And for relevant background material for that, see my earlier series: Moving Past Early Stage and the Challenge of Scalability, as can be found at Startups and Early Stage Businesses, postings 96 and loosely following (Parts 1-35.) Note: that earlier series is included in my startups and early stage series, but it in fact pursues a much more extensive and wide-ranging business development timeline, extending to address issues that only really emerge much later on too. So that series offers wider value here and in this context than its directory listing might suggest.

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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