Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Business planning from the back of a napkin to a formal and detailed presentation 25

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 28, 2018

This is my 25th 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, Page 4 and Page 5, postings 578 and loosely following for Parts 1-24.)

I have at least relatively systematically been addressing a brief set of topics points in this series since its Part 19, which I repeat here with parenthetically added notes that indicate where I have discussed issues included there in immediately preceding series installments:

1. More systematically discuss how business operations would differ for businesses that follow one or the other of two distinctively different business models (see Part 19 through Part 21 for a selectively detailed outline and discussion of those businesses),
2. How the specific product offering decision-making processes that I have been making note of here would inform the business models pursued by both of these business types, and their overall strategies and operations and their views and understandings of change: linear and predictable, and disruptively transitional in nature (see Part 22, Part 23 and Part 24.)
3. And I added that I would discuss how their market facing requirements and approaches as addressed here, would shape the dynamics of any agreement or disagreement among involved stakeholders as to where their business is now and where it should be going, and how.

My goal for this posting is to complete my discussion of the second point of that list, at least for purposes of this series and in anticipation of my addressing Point 3 and its issues and challenges.

I focused for the most part in Part 24 on a set of issues that arise when addressing Point 2 of the above list, that are also of overall importance when thinking about and developing a strategic approach to business development and management in general: the distinction that can arise between:

• A business as it is ideally conceived according to the terms of its underlying formally agreed to business model and the assumptions that enter into that, and
• That same business as its operations and practices, and its tactical implementations of strategy and policy are actually carried out, day-to-day and across longer time frames.

I refer to these sometimes conflicting understandings of a business as their idealized and realized business models respectively. And my goal in Part 24 was to lay out this distinction and at least briefly outline something as to how these two understandings can come to diverge from each other with time and for different constituencies within the organization. For that last point, and with large organizations with multi-layered tables of organization in mind, I note that senior executives who make overall strategic decisions and who set overall business-wide policy, can and often do find themselves presuming as a given, the idealized business model that formally defines their business, and its implicit understandings that they work from. While hands-on employees and the lower level managers who they directly work with and report to, who are at the opposite end of the spectrum as far as level and position on that table of organization are concerned, tend to focus on their own particular here-and-now work requirements and realities, and without even a basic explicit consideration of the larger, overall picture that the idealized business model is assumed to offer – and certainly for the C level officers of the executive suite.

• C level executives and their immediate peers set the idealized business model, and maintain it with board approval and support.
• Lower level members of the business-wide teams that they lead: the members of the business’ in-house community who work in the weeds of day-to-day detail and implementation, and with a narrower focus on their particular areas of attention within that same business, determine through their decisions and actions, in task-by-task detail how the realized business model there is shaped and how it is actually followed at their organizational level.

As a perhaps pertinent aside here, this is where and why businesses bring in a Chief Strategy Officer: to identify divergence from the idealized and desired business model in place and its operational intentions, and find better ways to develop and maintain a closer alignment between their overall expected and what is actually done, and across the organization. (See What Do C Level Officers Do? 5: the Chief Strategy Officer.) I add here that smaller organizations with simpler and more directly interconnected tables of organization, of necessity need to carry out those same functions, even if not as a separate job description. The question then becomes one of consistency of action and follow-through there.

And this leads me to the last issues that I have explicitly included in this Point 2 discussion, which I repeat here as a starting point for their discussion:

• “… and their overall strategies and operations and their views and understandings of change: linear and predictable, and disruptively transitional in nature.”

As briefly noted at the end of Part 24, ultimately this means finding effective, flexible and agile approaches for reconciling idealized and realized into a new emergent planned for and executed norm. This might or might not mean entering into and carrying out a strategically planned for business transition, intended to bring the organization back on track as a more competitively effective presence in its industry and for its markets. Or this might simply be part of an ongoing business-tuning exercise for more dynamically maintaining business alignment and effectiveness and on a smoother, more ongoing basis.

I begin addressing that bullet pointed issue and the immediately preceding paragraph as offered in commentary on it, with a simple and direct question: why? More specifically, how does effectively flexible and agile enter in here in the specific context of creating better, more effectively consistent business alignment in the face of linear evolutionary change, and in the face of disruptively novel and at least largely unpredictable change too? My goal for the balance of this posting is to at least begin addressing that question. And I will build from my response to it as offered here, in the next installment to this series, where I will at least begin to address Point 3 from the above topics list:

3. How their market facing requirements and approaches as addressed in this series up to here, would shape the dynamics of any agreement or disagreement among involved stakeholders as to where their business is now and where it should be going, and how.

Failure to effectively see and understand an emerging divergence between the probably uniform and consistent underlying idealized business model that is nominally in place, and the actual day-to-day and longer time frame operation and tactical practices that are actually in place: the realized business model(s) in active use as it (they?) variously and probably inconsistently play out across the organization as a whole, creates business systems fragility and vulnerability and particularly in the face of the unexpectedly novel and the disruptively new. (Note that I explicitly and intentionally added in there the likelihood that realized business models cannot be assumed to be consistent or uniform and certainly across the span of essentially any larger and more complexly structured business enterprise where the type of divergence that I write of here is taking place.)

This type of divergence both creates and is created from business systems friction and the miscommunications and information sharing failures that drive that phenomenon. And that and even just its immediately emergent consequences mitigate, and strongly so, against flexibility and agility and against competitive strength for the organization – and particularly where that organization is seeking to function in a highly competitive context and when seeking to meet the needs of a demanding marketplace.

That brings me directly to Point 3 as just repeated above, and its issues. And I will address it at least in part in terms of communications effectiveness and the availability of essential information in a timely manner as decisions are made and carried through upon.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory.

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