Printer Friendly

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Failing To Plan Is Planning To Fail - Part 2

Beyond the fear and uncertainty of planning lies one of the best kept secrets in small business. Planning, it turns out, is really no more - and no less - than another word for good management.

Maybe you can start a company or run a department without knowing how to plan. But if you expect success in the nonwovens industry, it is imperative that you do learn how to plan. Two potent observations recently drove this point home to me. They both came from an unlikely industry expert - a company's banker.

"These people are forever getting thrown off their horses and then wishing they had remembered to bring a rope. Even worse," he moaned, "they want to go deeper into debt without understanding the underlying problem."

Here, the poor planning criticism was leveled at the executive level of the company. But the problem, like a cancer, pervaded the whole business. When top management scorns planning, it is usually deemphasized throughout the organization. Similar to quality management, you can't make planning a priority from the bottom up.

A Six Point Planning Process

So how do you get the planning ball rolling?

Well, it's easiest to begin modestly, using a healthy dose of common sense. From there, the following pointers should help.

*First, planning takes discipline. Many managers and supervisors are better planners then they give themselves credit for. They can identify the problems keeping them awake at night and know some of the solutions. But, they fail to back away from the problem, even momentarily, to organize corrective actions. This is a deficiency in discipline, not planning skills.

*Commit your plan to writing for two reasons. First, you will be amazed that what is crystal clear verbal logic simply doesn't hold water when it looks back at you. Second, if you can't organize your plan well enough to write it down, you probably don't have a prayer of seeing it carried out successfully. Someone will misinterpret something, guaranteed.

*Use a team approach; don't plan unilaterally. Here's why. I once saw a "picture perfect" plan to attack a machine speed problem dropped on the lead operator to implement. It failed miserably. The critique process identified the flaw, which the operator could have prevented had he been involved in the plan development. High "cross sectional" teams, which include resources at the problem level as well as at the planning and management levels, are invaluable. Across the industry, companies are learning to involve people at all levels in the organization to improve the results of planning.

*Make sure the plan is flexible and focused at the results desired. One seasoned corporate planner I know of defined a plan as "a course of action from which to deviate." Plans carved in stone are often worthless because they assume the problem is static. A plan that targets a specific result, with a focused task group, can flex to reach the objective.

*Realistically measure the time and resources needed to accomplish the plan. This is one of the largest and most serious pitfalls in the planning process. Frequently plans are loaded at the front end and have no contingencies built into them. For example, plans for new product introductions and technology implementation are consistently optimistic and frequently lead to missed expectations, both internally and externally.

*Finally, build a planning format around the following, at a minimum: What is to be accomplished?; Give a generic description of the tasks to be undertaken; Who is responsible for action steps?; When are the tasks to be completed or when are updates expected?

I can almost guarantee that if you take a shortcut on these four items, your plan will fail.

Planning Targets

Where do you aim this newfound planning expertise?

In most operations, there is plenty of fertile ground. For starters, here are just a few ideas.

*Improve unit cost with a plan to identify and reduce the top five causes of waste by 20%.

*List operating expenses from largest to smallest and establish cost reduction goals and plans for each major area.

*Improve safety performance with plant audits and follow-up plans of action to eliminate unsafe conditions.

*At a corporate or plant level, establish a profitability improvement target and have Sales, Marketing, Distribution and Manufacturing contribute supplemental plans to reach the goal.

*Check the competition and see how you measure up. In one case, a general manager of a disposables operation made a comprehensive "store check" and discovered, firsthand, that his product packaging was woefully inadequate. This called for a plan to upgrade the packaging design in order to remain competitive in that field.

The Planning Premise

Before you begin, however, let's put the whole planning process in perspective. Perhaps this is what should be emblazoned over the entrance to the plant or corporate conference room: The Planning Process Should Not Overpower The Ability to Conduct Business

Paradoxically, fear of planning is not altogether a bad thing. Yes, planning plays a critical role in the success of a company. But if it overpowers everything else, planning has its downside.

The truth is that planning is the key to being responsive and opportunistic. It may be dull and boring, but it is one of the best competitive weapons in the arsenal. Use it - and don't wait to let the big guys show you how it's done.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Rodman Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Profitable Manufacturing; part 2
Author:Schuler, Tom
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Apr 1, 1990
Previous Article:1990 harmonized tariff schedule.
Next Article:Adult incontinence products.

Related Articles
After stalling out, will SMC recycling revive?
Effort to Save Monticello Plant Fails.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters