Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Business planning from the back of a napkin to a formal and detailed presentation 27

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on December 25, 2018

This is my 27th 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 their Page 5 continuation, postings 578 and loosely following for Parts 1-26.)

I have been addressing a set of topics points since Part 19, which I repeat here for smoother continuity of narrative as I continue working my way through them (with parenthetical notes added to indicate where I have discussed its first two entries in installments leading up to here):

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, Part 24 and Part 25.)
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.

I focused in Part 26 on two basic issues. I began it by briefly summarizing the flow of discussion that I have been pursuing here, and certainly since Part 19, doing so in general terms. And after completing that, at least for purposes of this series and for now in it, I began discussing Point 3, as offered above. More specifically, I began challenging that topics point there, by explicitly noting two fundamental assumptions that I had built into it:

• That all participants in what have to effectively become business-wide strategic decision making processes, take a business-wide and entire business-inclusive perspective, rather than just participating in this exercise from the more limited and parochial perspectives of their own particular functional work areas there.
• And that there is enough basic agreement, or at least enough potential for it, for everyone at the table to be able to come to a more genuine, uncoerced agreement, at least for all of the key decision points that would have to be reached.

I then reframed and reworded the above Point 3 to accommodate the points that I had just made as to its applicability and effectiveness as a discussion-orienting starting point. And my new formulation of that point was:

• Point 3 (take 2): … And I added that I would discuss how a combination of stakeholder-held perspectives and understandings of the business as a whole, as shaped by their own more individual work responsibilities and perspectives there, would in turn shape the dynamics of any agreement or disagreement among them as to where their business is now as a whole and where it should be going, and how, as those individuals arrive at mutually agreeable accommodations that would balance overall business needs and their own individual stakeholder needs.

My goal here is to at least begin to more fully explore and discuss the issues raised in this Point 3 as reformulated. And as noted at the end of Part 26, in anticipation of this installment, this is where issues of reactive versus proactive arise, and of necessity. And the key set of issues that serve to link the balance of reactive to proactive that actually takes place in a business, to the issues raised in the above restated Point 3, is entrenched in the information gaps and the business system friction that it creates that I have made explicit note of here in this series.

I in fact begin this discussion thread with explicit consideration of reactive and proactive as management and execution possibilities. I recently raised the possibility of both approaches being followed at once in complex systems where multiple decisions and their follow-throughs would be taking place at any given time, and even just by single individuals (see Rethinking exit and entrance strategies 30: keeping an effective innovative focus while approaching and going through significant business transitions 20. I expand upon that line blurring reconsideration of those key terms here when I explicitly note that different stakeholders, and certainly stakeholders who have differing goals and priorities, can variously see a same decision and follow-through requirement as best being addressed proactively, or as best set aside for the present at the very least, and addressed reactively later on – if necessary.

Let me take that out of the abstract with a very real world example that I have seen play out on several occasions and certainly for startups that are just beginning to take off, when founding stakeholders are coming to see a widening of the possibilities faced. Such a business, now entering its first real growth phase as an at least consistently nominally profitable enterprise, in most cases faces a range of possibilities for precisely where it should develop into and go next, and how, and with what priorities for the building block steps that would lead there. When a still-startup is still limited by pre-profitability liquidity restrictions and all of the restraints that condition brings with it, longer-term planning and its execution – and all of the points of potential disagreement that can arise in a real growth phase, are still held largely in check.

• Counterparts to this scenario can arise at essentially any turning point in a business’ developing history, and certainly when those historical benchmarks rise to the level of change significance where true business transitions might make sense.
• And in fact, one of the surest sign that a business is at least approaching a potential business transition turning point, moving from one phase of stability and order to a fundamentally new one, is when fundamental differences of the type under consideration here begin to overtly emerge.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment, concluding my discussion of Point 3 (as restated here) with that. Then as promised in Part 26, I will discuss the issues that I have been raising here from the above Point 1 on, from a larger context than that of the individual business and its stakeholders, where individual businesses enter into larger supply chain and related collaborations, and as businesses seek to operate in larger contexts in general. And I will return to my initial case study examples as I complete this discussion thread to tie this developing narrative together as a more organized whole.

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.

2 Responses

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  1. Alan Singer said, on December 25, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    Teachers have some similar issues. A lesson plan is a thought out strategy for teaching. Cannot be on the back of a napkin. Of course, your “plan” can always be Trumpian chaos.

    • Timothy Platt said, on December 25, 2018 at 8:24 pm

      I start with a back of a napkin approach as a stereotypical first rough draft that would be progressively refined and fleshed out for its workable details. That said, you are correct in noting that some people never move past that initial “flash of inspiration”, but still detail-free first step in their planning. You are also right in noting that a similar approach to what I offer here can be found in a lot of other at least supposedly organized and planned-out endeavors too, teaching included.

      I assume in that, that when you plan out an entirely new course at your university, you start with a set of general goals as to what you would cover there, and as to what this whole new offering will be about. Then you delve into the details and both for precisely what you will cover and when, and for what text book and journal articles and other teaching materials you would want your students to study in coordination with your classroom teaching.

      As for a possible educational example of the “less prepared” possibility that I raised towards the start of this reply: what exactly is a degree from Trump University worth these days, on the open market and as a basis for career advancement? And how much of that paucity of value stems from a failure there to go past the initial idea/impulse of setting up that “business”, to actually plan out and develop a real educational opportunity from it? I have seen other types of businesses make that same mistake too.

      Thanks for your comment, Tim

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