|How do I get the greatest value out of my investment in planning?
The single most important thing an organization can do to squeeze the most value
from the planning process is to follow through with regular meetings to track the
progress of the plan. These meetings should be conducted at least once a quarter.
The purpose is to hold leaders/managers accountable for the commitments they made during the planning
process and stay on top of shifting priorities. Sometimes it is necessary to reallocate
resources and reschedule a deadline or change an action item. Regular tracking meetings
allow these decisions to be made with the input and approval of the leadership.
Regular tracking meetings also motivate managers to make steady progress on assigned tasks
in order to show results when reporting to their peers in the planning group. The tracking meeting,
like the planning process, is usually more effective when professional facilitated.
|When is the best time of year to do planning?
The planning process is more effective if conducted before the annual budget is
finalized. This includes the operating budget and the capital budget, if you have one.
Many of the decisions that are made in the planning process have a material impact on the budget.
For example, the plan should address your growth expectations and
the resources needed to generate and serve that growth. If the planning process comes after the
budget, it is too late to have a major impact on the resources needed to generate the growth. Most clients on a January 1 fiscal
cycle do their planning in early fall and their budgets in late fall. For a fiscal year that ends in the summer, the plan is usually developed in
early spring and the budgets in late spring. Larger organizations may need more time to complete the cycle - up
to six months in some cases.
|What is the most common error made by organizations new to planning?
By far, the most common error in planning is over committing limited resource. These are
usually people resources. Planning forces organizations to identify and address the barriers to
the next level of performance. However the current
level of success must also be maintained. In most cases, managers are asked to do double duty.
They must maintain the current operations which is a full-time job. They must
also tackle these issues which are essential to the long-term success of the organization.
Unfortunately, the urgency of operations often overshadows the importance of long-term improvement.
|The difference between strategy and planning
The Balanced Scorecard.
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|Top Critical Issues in 2005
|In a typical year, Vantage works with 50 to 100 different organizations to
develop long-range strategic plans. These organizations cover a broad spectrum
and include large corporations, small family businesses, non-profit charities and
arts organizations, educational institutions and public organizations at the state,
county and municipal levels. One of the things that we have learned is
that the Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, can be applied to critical issues
in at least two ways. The first is that 20% of the issues, if addressed successfully,
will generate 80% of the positive impact on the organization. In other words, you should
concentrate on identifying one or two of the most important issues and be sure to
focus enough resources on each issue to get the job done. This will generate more benefit
than listing 10 issues and addressing each of them half heartedly.
|The other way that Pareto shows up is that about 80% of an organization's critical issues are
common to most organizations. That still leaves 20% as unique to the history and circumstances of
any specific organization. That is quite amazing given the diversity of organizations identified
above. We have analyzed the critical issues from all the clients we worked with in 2005 and these are
the most common critical issues.
|Communication (primarily internal)
Hiring, training and retaining employees
|Every rule has its exceptions. But chances are you are dealing with four or five
of these issues right now. Your long-term success will be determined, in part, by
your ability to select the one or two issues that will have the greatest positive impact and
then focus the resources and skill to make it work.