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Secrets of strategic planning: responding to the opportunities of tomorrow.

Secrets of Strategic Planning: Responding to the Opportunities of Tomorrow

There is a story of a king who wanted to change the world. Soon his deputies began arguing about the world's shape - was it flat or was it round?

"What difference does it make?" asked the king. "I'm going to change it anyhow."

"You can't make change unless you know where you are coming from," said his deputies. "There is just no way to get started without collecting and analyzing data about our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats."

"There is in my world," said the king, as he opened a concealed trap door beneath them.

Tom Peters and Robert Waterman said, "Do it, fix it, try it." Gerald Nadler says, "Don't study the problem if you want to solve it." Russell Ackoff tells us to force fast radical change first. In doing so, much of what you would have studied will disappear.

What is strategic planning? Planning is the action you take now for the future that you desire. Strategic planning is the label we use for larger corporate-wide or company-wide planning. It is a continual process.

Planning and change are essential if our organizations are to survive and grow.

One company put its employees on roller skates, so they could move more quickly. Then it replaced all the products on the floor with IBM cards, using a system where the order was picked and wrapped while the customer was paying. Both of those ideas failed. Then the company tried franchising. Today, Canadian Tire is one of the most successful retailers in Canada. It still makes mistakes, but these efforts led to continued growth and profitability.

You want your organization to grow and survive, and your strategic plan details how you will accomplish that goal.

An effective strategic plan tells how you will sell more, charge more, deliver more, spend less, generate cash, keep out of trouble, and be competitive.

A strategic plan defines what you want to do, and how you are going to do it. For example, technology nearly always increases absolute labor costs, rather than the reverse. Your plan must address how you will handle that.

A key component of your plan is your mission - what business you are in to make profits and grow.

Strategic planning doesn't respond to today, and today's problems. It responds to tomorrow, and tomorrow's opportunities.

Strategic planners don't keep up to date, because if you are up to date today, you are behind the times tomorrow. Strategic planners keep up to future date.

Planning based on what you have now produces more of the same. We sat in on a meeting of government research scientists who were asked what new programs they could establish to benefit the economy. "We could expand our groundwater program," said the chief geologist. "We could investigate new uses for saline water," said the chief chemist. "We could increase our market research services," said the industrial advisor. "No," said the biologist, "The most important thing is to focus on environmental issues." Not a single new or original idea - one requiring new skills or a fundamentally new approach - was put forward.

This is not because people lack creativity or intelligence. It comes from the approach they use for change.

Strategic planning needs customer feedback to respond to. It needs a desire for continual improvement, every day. It needs team power. It needs an organizational culture for excellence. It needs commitment, burned bridges, and the desire to win.

The strategic planning strategy is simple. It's based on Gerald Nadler's "Breakthrough Thinking." Start with your mission or purpose and use this mission as a guide to the new plan, starting with a clean sheet. Then design what you would really like to have - your ideal or target - as if you were really starting all over.

We call this idea "the plant after next," or the creative leap approach. It automatically eliminates such errors as positioning your heat treating furnace in the rear of today's plant, and in the center of the your future expansion!

Base your strategic plan on the future you desire, rather than the present you wish to eliminate or replace.

Polaroid's Edwin Land designed and produced his first SX-70 camera with the full belief that, when his camera was ready, someone could supply a battery for the new film pack. He produced his camera for a future that had not arrived yet. His success is legendary.

Underwood (typewriters) adapted to the war effort in about 1939 by deciding to do what it already did well - bashing metal. So it built rifles. Its competitor, IBM, looked to the future, and moved into computers. Underwood no longer exists. It would have been better to follow Robert Kennedy's advice, borrowed from George Bernard Shaw, "Some men see things as they are, and ask `Why?' I dream things that never were and ask, `Why not?'"

A great plan not implemented is worthless Before you begin planning, consider implementation, since a great plan not installed is worthless. Considering implementation issues will focus your attention on your employees and your customers - people.

Build teams, especially multi-disciplinary or concurrent teams. Get people involved and participating right from the beginning. Don't keep secrets from them.

Your mission is a key component of your strategic plan. Your mission statement must tell you what you want to accomplish, why you want to accomplish that, and how you will be able to know how well it's going.

Without a mission statement, you will almost certainly just plan for more of the same. You will have the world's fastest arrow, but nothing to shoot at. George Morris, of Morris Rod-Weeder, a farm implement manufacturer, always described his business in terms of its mission - moisture retention and weed control. He understood the power of purpose.

Your planning process must itself be planned. You must include mission, creative visioning, feedback to and from all of the stakeholders, real-world risks and constraints, responsibilities and time lines for each part of the plan, as well as implementation and ongoing future change and improvement.

Once you have a plan, there is no excuse for variance. How do you keep on budget when things change? Re-plan and re-budget, as often as needed. We have never seen a company on-budget go bankrupt, but lots of the opposite.

As a leader, you set the destination, the mode of transportation, and the speed. You need belief and commitment. Try it on your own, or use outside training and facilitating skills. But don't employ a consultant who offers to do the whole plan for you. It never works. It cannot. Be prepared to change often, for constant change is perfection.

Strategic Plan Checklist

WHAT, Why, How Know = Mission * Purpose * Goals, values * Performance measures, levels * Locational, other constraints

HOW, Who, When = Action * Customers, users, competitive edge * Stakeholders * How we will manage * Products/services/marketing mix * Quality concerns and methodologies * Input resources * Methods, processes that will be used * Environment: External/internal * Organization, staffing, development * Plant and equipment, technology * Information requirements * Financial implications * Key result areas, risk * Correction capability * Renewal: Up to future date

To Fix an Ineffective

Mission Statement

Your mission statement provides a powerful road map and evaluation tool for your organization - or it should.

Questions: A. Does your mission contain a clear statement of what your organization is uniquely created to accomplish, and which can serve as a numerator in a performance measure?

B. Is it just a goal-rich statement of values and qualities of excellence which can be shared by other organizations?

C. Is your mission statement too large, encompassing the possible missions of many others?

Statements in group A are the drivers, guidelines, and motivators for successful organizations. Those in group B sound great. They should, since all they really say is to get somewhere or other safely, profitably, and wonderfully. Those in group C can be used to take credit when others succeed, and to blame them when things go wrong. Great mission statements come from group A. They are what statements. They tell us what, not why or how, we are to accomplish. If your mission consists primarily of values, qualities, whys and hows, here is what you should do to fix it:

1. Seek what statements from all levels in your organization, plus appropriate outside stakeholders.

2. List all of these statements in a ranking from narrowest (with the least number of ways of being accomplished) to broadest (with the greatest number of ways of being accomplished.) You will then notice that each succeeding statement explains the previous one. We call this type of listing a purpose hierarchy.

3. Seek from this list the most unique, relevant, largest practical statement as the guide to your new mission statement. Use the ideas in the other statements as supporting material, goals and justifiers.

This simple process provides input from all of your staff, yet allows senior management to develop the final statement in an effective and responsive manner.

Key Strategic Planning

Steps for Fast Results

1. Select a multi-disciplinary, multi-level team. A team that gets results is selected on the basis of a precise formula that may include a senior decision maker as well as a junior clerk. Teams that consist only of senior officials produce unimaginative, high-cost, slow-moving solutions to simple problems.

2. Plan and schedule the implementation now. Schedule the completion date now. Make future appointments with key stakeholders and with the approvers. Commit yourself irreversibly.

3. Determine the mission that the organization wants to accomplish, using a purpose hierarchy. Understand the difference between unfocused goals, such as working together for health and well-being, and the vastly more useful functional component of your purpose statement.

4. Creatively design your future vision for mission accomplishment. Develop an ideal plan - what you would really like to see if you were starting all over again. Use the concept of regularity. Regularity assumes there are no irregularities or exceptions - everything perfect and regular. This is the creative deferred judgment principle.

5. Conduct a public interim review, using the Mind Dump technique. Expose your ideal target plan to all of the stakeholders now. Collect as many constraints, objections, and suggestions as you can, especially from the opposition. If you want to fail, keep your vision a secret until the details have been worked out.

7. Use your future vision as your target solution. Slowly incorporate all of the real world complications and constraints that you have identified. Grudgingly modify your plan to accommodate these. Keep as close to your ideal target as possible. Make it workable now in the real world, but build in a path to your desired future.

8. The final implemented plan must be detailed and refined using a solution or systems matrix. This matrix is a massive workability checklist. It includes the solution's purpose, inputs, methodologies, environments, equipment & technology, people, and information requirements. The solution matrix includes all planned future changes, research needs, and pre-planned corrective action for things that could go wrong in the future. It includes your plans for continual updating and renewal. Alan Scharf, CMC, P. Eng. is the president of Scharf and Associates Creative Leap International, a management consulting firm. This Saskatoon firm specializes in creative approaches to implemented change. He is a senior member of IIE, past director of the IIE management division, and founding past president of the Society for Engineering and Management Systems (SEMS).
COPYRIGHT 1991 Institute of Industrial Engineers, Inc. (IIE)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Scharf, Alan
Publication:Industrial Management
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Words:1896
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