Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Business planning from the back of a napkin to a formal and detailed presentation 9

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 13, 2016

This is my ninth 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 1-8.)

I began a discussion in Part 8, of systematic analysis of businesses and their underlying operational processes, and of understanding those processes as they do or do not function in wider business contexts. And my goal and my basic orientation in addressing that there, was one of how this level and type of business analysis can inform more effective ongoing strategic planning and growth. And that leads me directly to this posting, where I will focus on the issues of scalability as a strategically planned exercise.

I often at least begin discussions of this type with the fundamentals, and will follow that pattern here too and with what amounts to a checklist of issues that have to be considered: first in more general orienting terms, and then in progressively more refined detail.

• What do you need to scale up in a given business, and why?
• And what specific, explicit goals and purposes have you set that would inform how you answer that first question, deciding were in your business you need to explicitly grow it out?
• Now how would this business best achieve that growth and in detail? What would you specifically grow and build your business into, where change is needed? It is important to express this in specific functional systems detail, and to actively watch out for missing steps and details as they will come back to haunt you as new fundamental problems that you will have to go back to – and even if that means undoing changes just made and rethinking them from their beginnings again.
• What parts of this exercise in growth can be more simply achieved by scaling up processes and systems of them, and the resource bases that they depend upon in a relatively linear manner? Where, in other words would a simple “bigger and more of the same” suffice?
• Now, what parts of this would not be amenable to simpler linear expansion, with growth according to an already established template pattern in-place? Rephrasing that, what of this business has to be fundamentally reconsidered and even replaced in scaling up the business as a whole, and with what new systems and capabilities?
• The questions raised in the two preceding bullet points address standard ongoing operational processes and the resource base that would be needed to sustain them. And they also address wider-ranging contexts and both for what a given process or set of them requires in order for it to be carried out, and for what that subsystem of the business itself supports and enables. This type of analysis has to extend both upstream and downstream in the normative work flow of the business, if it is to offer real sustaining value.
• And I add that this analysis should just as actively examine and evaluate exception handing processes and systems in place too, and how normative operational systems and exception handing systems connect and flow into each other – in addressing the “out of the ordinary,” and in returning to normal operating procedures as those unexpected events are resolved.
• And this is the point in this flow of discussion where it becomes essential that I add in the issues of scaling up communications and information sharing in this business, to limit as much as possible a matching scaling up of business systems friction from all of this change and growth.
• Friction can increase and even very significantly, just from more linear “same thing but larger” growth, and certainly when elements of what should be scaled up are left out of consideration from, for example, being taken for granted and from remaining unexamined.
• Nonlinear growth, and the institution of fundamentally new and novel in a business that has to be smoothly integrated into its overall business systems, can always be expected to lead to increased friction, and at least when going through its initial prototyping and then general incorporation and testing phases in bringing it into the business.
• If communications issues are not explicitly addressed here and I add throughout any scalability and growth exercise, that business is likely to go through an otherwise avoidable prolonged “learning curve” and “growing pains” period, where increased growth leads to increased avoidable business systems friction that will have to be reduced by fine-tuning and correcting the changes just put into place. And this learning curve, and growing pains period will be more prolonged as well as more avoidably costly, from failure to maintain and improve the information flow needed here to accommodate greater organizational scale and complexity.
• Setting scalability goals in terms of longer-term business model and business plan goals enters into all of this here too – and so does reframing the business, its business model, and its overall goals in terms of emerging challenges and opportunities that increased scale can bring.
• That point is very important; the basic pattern that would be pursued in scaling up and growing a business should be centered around a point of focus provided by the basic business model in place – and at the same time, need for growth and scalability and awareness of the options and opportunities and emerging needs that have come to demand this growth should be used as a basis for reexamining and reconsidering, and if necessary refocusing the underlying business model too.
• Expanded business scale, it should be noted, can and usually does mean expanded business reach too, and expansion of the marketplace reached out to. And this can lead to both increased opportunity for already ongoing sources of business friction, and opportunity for development of new sources of friction too.
• All of this collectively means rethinking scalability as a dynamic process and both in how it is carried out and for what it is carried out to achieve. Here, unfolding understanding of what is possible can compel a rethinking of what should be sought out and built towards. And as that creates new possibilities that a business can realistically hope to and build to achieve, that calls for new next-round rethinking and re-planning too.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, by picking up on two bullet points that I first offered near the start to Part 8:

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

I began discussing these issues in Part 8 and again here in this Part 9, in general terms. My goal for Part 10 will be to at least start a discussion of planning and executing upon the specific details in this. 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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