In this four-part series, I’m discussing some planning challenges and offering best practices that can help companies improve efficiencies and gain strategic advantage. In my last blog post I discussed “Is the annual process disconnected from the realities of your business?” In Part 2, I will talk about how executives and leadership need to rethink business planning.
Ever find yourself celebrating a project that was delivered on time, within budget, and in scope – but the expected outcomes were unclear? Such is the risk of spending valuable time and resources on investments that weren’t prioritized or strategically planned in the first place. When relying on annual budgeting activities to drive business decisions, you may not clearly understand what the business is trying to achieve — let alone know what opportunities were missed throughout the year.
I’ve seen many organizations face this scenario: annual budgeting generates a list of investments that look like more a wish-list than a prioritized strategic plan mapped to business outcomes. More time is often spent creating the estimate than understanding the business reason for doing it and measuring it against the other ideas coming through annual budgeting. Then, after spending months manually creating this list, the first half of the year will be spent missing out on new opportunities or ideas. Projects that were never fully evaluated from a business viewpoint may be naturally delayed so the second half of the year is spent playing catch up. This results in the project being delivered to use the budget, not lose it.
Where is the Business Planning?
Nobody enjoys the pain of missed opportunities, unplanned demand, or employee burn out, so what causes this breakdown? Without tying projects to outcomes or results, it becomes difficult to prioritize – whether you are an organization creating a capacity plan for the next 1-12 months or a resource manager making team assignments or an individual making daily decisions. As this breakdown occurs, there is no method to ensure the organization executes on the highest priorities first and successfully deliver on expected outcomes.
This vicious cycle is exacerbated when the very people who should be ensuring that resources are executing on a strategic plan are instead collecting manual data. Instead of understanding the organizations’ priorities to truly innovate, they are busy justifying time spent and protecting their projects.
This is especially problematic when annual budgeting cycles reward those who manage to outdated detailed estimates and stay within budget – regardless of the project’s results. If the project is delayed or cancelled, the budget goes with it, which means there is no incentive to identify projects that won’t result in desired outcomes.
Things to Consider: Visualize Investments, Understand Outcomes, Adapt and Reprioritize on the Fly
What if executives had a real-time view into what they were actually delivering in-flight compared to a prioritized plan of outcomes? Imagine if decision makers empowered their organizations to identify and communicate investments – even if they differed from expected outcomes. They could then move from managing a budget to an allocation of capacity to outcomes. Instead of relying too heavily on the annual plan to drive execution, they could then strive for the flexibility to adapt and re-prioritize throughout the year.
They can actually plan their business.
Ready to learn more? In Part 3, we will consider who is responsible for providing the data to make informed decisions about your strategic initiatives. Stayed tuned!
I hope you find this topic as interesting as I do. If so, I invite you to watch this informative webcast I hosted with Gary Merrifield of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana titled, Keep Calm and Plan On: Plan Well and Plan Often for Success. During the webcast, Gary discusses what he and his team are doing to plan more effectively and manage their investment demand against their capacity. I highly recommend it. Let me know what you think about the webcast or planning in general by leaving a comment below.