Vantage Point
Vantage Point is a quarterly newsletter designed to help organizations
improve performance through strategic planning and executive consulting.
Planning FAQs
What Successful Organizations Have in Common

One of the questions I have struggled to answer over the years is "How much of an organization's success is attributed to luck and how much is skill or talent"? One of my favorite quotes comes from Jack Nicholas. He said "the more I practice the luckier I get". Many organizations make their own luck by positioning themselves to take advantage of opportunities when they come along. Over the last twenty years I have worked with about 30 new or different organizations every year. When I think back over those 600 organizations, there are a number of common characteristics that show up in the most successful ones.

1. They focus on what they do best. They don't try to be all things to all people. They don't chase the latest fad. They are very clear on who they are and what they must do well. I like to tell people "if you don't know who isn't your customer, you don't have a clear strategy".
2. They invest in their people from the top to the bottom. It is great to have MBAs in the executive suite but the front-line employees are the ones implementing the strategy, one customer at a time. A fast food restaurant I know had particularly bad service. I later learned that their counter employees were from the Dept. of Corrections Work Release Program. Bad customer service? - Well Duh!
3. Another quote I like comes from a famous hockey player. He said the secret to his success is that he "skates to where the puck will be". In business we call that getting in front of the curve. Good planning helps you skate to where the puck will be. It forces you to step back from the urgency of day to day activities and ask very important questions about how to position the organization for future opportunities.

How Planning Evolves Within an Organization

Most organizations with sophisticated planning systems didn't get there in one giant leap. They managed their planning system to evolve over time making incremental improvements each year. This evolution usually includes three phases:

1) Budgeting. - I call this planning for expenses. This is a basic form of planning and is almost entirely bottom up.

2) Predicting the Future. - In phase 2 organizations look out beyond next year and begin to evaluate the market and identify opportunities.

3) Creating the Future. - The most sophisticated planning not only asks what opportunities are out there, but also asks how can we create more opportunities. An interesting question is "can we somehow change the rules of the game to make us more successful"? Apple Computer changed the music industry with the ipod. Southwest Airlines redefined air travel and has been the only US carrier that has been consistently profitable over the last 10 years.
Poll Question
The poll question last quarter asked: Who do you think will be the Republican Nominee to run for President? Rudy Giuliani received the most votes by a wide margin. Here is the breakdown:
Our poll question this quarter is: Who do you think will be the Democratic Nominee to run for President?

  • Clinton
  • Edwards
  • Obama
  • Richardson
  • Other
  • We will report the results in the next issue.
    Click here to participate in our poll. You may return to the Poll Page to monitor the results as often as you like. However, you should respond to the poll question only once.
    The Role of Manager
    Most organizations hire or promote managers based on their experience and functional expertise. Certainly your CFO needs to know the ins and outs of financing. Your production manager needs to know what will keep the production line moving. One of the roles of a manager that is often overlooked is that of mentor. Preparing the next generation of management to assume leadership positions is probably the most important goal a manager can accomplish. However, as important as it is, it is often pushed aside by the urgency of day-to-day demands. If you go home each night wondering who could take your place if you didn't come back, you probably should spend more time identifying and cultivating new leaders.

    Future Topics
  • More on Successful Organizations
  • The Planning Department Pitfall
  • For more information contact Jim Sisson -
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