Today’s world of work is fraught with complexity and an ever-increasing need for speed. This is simply a reality organizations must come to realize. However, these conditions cause planning deficiencies to be magnified. In this blog series, we will be discussing five types of planning that are crucial to delivering on strategy with a dynamic and continuous approach. Let’s jump right in to part one.
Consider this: how many times have you or a colleague joined dozens of co-workers for two or more days of an annual offsite planning event? And of the plans that came out of those sessions, how many were actually implemented and carried out over the next 12 months?
Probably not many.
In fact, you might remember the dinners or happy hours that followed those long hours of planning more than any new strategic finding or direction. That’s okay; you’re not alone.
Planning is hard, especially in this era of digital transformation when everything is more complicated and interconnected. Our penchant for applying technology to every problem often makes innovations and development more complicated.
Our efforts to stay ahead of the competition frequently fall short for two primary reasons:
- We fail to realize that planning requires more than just technology.
- We put all our efforts into one comprehensive rock-solid plan that we think will endure everything the market and our competitors will throw at us for the rest of year.
Truly successful plans include so much more than technology. They require people, strategies, work, outcomes, and technology. And they must be built with the realization that all of these elements will change.
Planning must take into account teams that are increasingly more virtual and tasked with collaborating across time zones, cultures, and disciplines. Planners must synthesize and analyze variables such as project status, customer demands, market conditions, competitive moves, and new technologies—all of which are fluid and unpredictable.
In this five-part series will help you understand how to apply a dynamic and continuous approach to developing a successful plan for the long haul.
We’ll show you how to develop and implement planning processes that are integrated and continuous, enabling you to adjust and react to new information and take advantage of emerging opportunities.
We’ll help you understand and consider different types of planning, including project financial planning, annual planning, strategic planning, capacity planning, and roadmapping. We’ll go over how to outline these plans in a way that is more continuous and agile.
Stick with us and in the end, you’ll understand what it takes to create plans that will enable you to continuously connect strategy to delivery.
Let’s start with the basics
Planning is often described as either tactical or strategic, although some people struggle to tell the difference. In both cases, planning is treated as a static and linear process, lacking critical planning elements such as continuous processes, feedback loops, and measurements of results. These plans are laid out as if nothing will ever change. Customer demands, pricing, global politics, etc. will all remain the same; so therefore the plan will never have to evolve. It’s like planting pansies in January and expecting them to flourish in August.
Organizations often fail for three main reasons, as cited by Forrester:
- They have inflexible planning processes
- They fail to adapt to market changes and miss new opportunities
- They lack systematic feedback and processes to course-correct when necessary
Deviate or Die
In the face of constant change, plans must be dynamic and enable you to shift based on the latest data, while keeping resources aligned and mapped to outcome delivery at all times. This continuous planning process improves your ability to prioritize and adapt, ensuring you are delivering value to the business.
Unfortunately, most annual planning events fail to create this type of environment. Instead, they draw out inflexible annual budgets and process mandates that everyone is expected to follow without exception, regardless of what changes may unfold. Departments such as IT and product development are expected to fall in line now and do more later with the same or less capacity.
That’s why annual plans don’t last long, if at all.
Plans that are set in stone only work if our business environments are predictable. But that’s almost never the case.
An IDG Research Services survey found that 85 percent of CIOs and IT leaders deviate from their approved annual plans several times a year to meet new internal and external business requests.
Ironically, one-third of these IT departments are still evaluated on their original annual plan goals with no consideration for these additional demands.
You may be surprised to find that even Project Management Offices are sometimes to blame for following a plan to the letter instead of adapting to change. Some managers see a deviation from an approved plan as a lack of discipline that undercuts execution.
When zombies attack!
When managers from executive teams and PMOs turn a deaf ear and blind eye to change, they effectively become what Gartner calls “Zombie PMOs.” Their lack of agility prevents them from assessing and aligning priorities and resources when and where they’re needed the most.
As a result, this rigidity and commitment to the approved plan causes most strategic initiatives to fail. Despite increasing budgets for innovation, Planview’s Sixth Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Study found that only half of product development organizations are meeting their target launch dates and revenue goals.
Plan with the perennials
Earlier, I compared an ill-conceived plan to planting pansies in the winter and expecting them to thrive in the summer. This is actually a great analogy for building a successful plan. Everyone should look at agile and continuous plans as perennials: If properly nurtured, they can adapt to changing conditions and grow for years.
To get to this point, everyone, including stakeholders and leadership, needs to be on the same page about the organization’s planning strategy. This includes:
- When should you be using one type of planning versus another?
- Who should be involved with each planning activity? When are they brought in to the conversation?
- What opportunities and outcomes you should expect to achieve?
Once you’ve settled on your approach, you can begin evaluating the types of plans that will help meet your goals, which we’ll cover throughout the rest of this blog series.
In the meantime, I encourage you to download the full eBook, “Planning Deconstructed,” which contains the information we will cover in this series in greater detail.