Dynamic Planning Allows Timing of Quality Decisions
Business owners find planning a difficult thing to do. Creating the plan by understanding owner values and having the policy-making group set goals, having the decision-making group determine actions to be taken to achieve the goals, measuring the progress toward goals, and revising the actions as required by experience is a complicated process. Simply initiating the planning process takes time. The process can stop at any point, and overcoming an immediate obstacle causes delays. After one obstacle, there will be another. Communications among the owners, the policy-making group (strategic planning), the decision-making group (operational or short-term planning), and the productive elements of the business can be nonexistent, time-consuming to create, and hard to maintain. Even though business owners know that having a planning process drive business decision-making can mean everything to the results obtained, many businesses do not have an effective planning process in place.
We know what usually happens. Planning starts as a separate activity, remote from business activity, done when the thought occurs and focused on when nothing urgent gets in the way. This happens even though planning is important to a business because planning enables better decisions, and therefore obtains better results for the business. Decisions needing to be made are not made. Some decisions are made without proper consideration and do more harm than good.
What makes planning a consistent part of the business operation is timing. If creating a plan takes a weekend retreat, facilitation, enough writing to fill a three-ring notebook, and space on the shelf for the notebook, then planning typically remains a separate activity not involved in the essential conduct of the business. Planning is most effective when it is dynamic – where changes made to the plan are acted upon because of immediate communication to all affected by the plan.
The elements of the planning process are not static. At any given time, any element may change. When we first start to plan, the owners must articulate their values and from that the policy-making group sets goals. This element of goal setting will change as the owners’ lives change, their values change, and the goals they agree on change. When the owners’ values change, the policy-making group will revise goals. Once the goals are known, the decision-making group will decide on actions that will be taken to realize the goals. When goals are changed, the actions taken to realize the revised goals must also be changed, and the decision-making group must identify new actions to meet the revised goals. As these new actions are executed, the results of the actions must be monitored to see if the actions should be revised or if there is a need to revise goals.
In traditional planning scenarios, changes in the planning process elements are not immediately made known to business stakeholders not involved in the change. So values changed, but goals were not changed. Goals were changed, but actions taken to meet goals were not revised. Where the experience of taking actions to reach goals showed that the actions needed to be changed or the goals should be revised, nothing was changed. What causes this is the format of the plan. The plan format does not communicate plan changes to all elements of the planning process.
Plan timing is dependent upon communication. A dynamic plan process is one where the format of the plan communicates plan changes to all elements of the planning process. The format of the plan must show each goal, and when a goal is changed by the policy-making group, the format shows the change. This notification allows the decision-making group to revise actions to be taken to meet the revised goal. The revised actions will be monitored and that monitoring will be visible not only to the decision-making group to change operational activity but also to the owners and the policy-making group who will determine if goals need to be revised. Changes made to the dynamic plan format provide immediate notice of the changes to all elements of the planning process and allows for appropriate dialogue on the changes.
A simple example of an appropriate plan format for a dynamic plan is a spreadsheet showing plan goals, actions taken to reach the goals, results of monitoring of those actions, and decisions made concerning the revision of either the goals or actions taken. The spreadsheet file is shared with all elements of the planning process. Changes to the spreadsheet will be made known to all sharing the spreadsheet file. In this way, the spreadsheet changes immediately are communicated and appropriate information is shared. There are more sophisticated software programs, such as Microsoft Teams, accomplishing the same level of communication but with a higher learning curve.
Operational actions taken by a business are the result of decisions. If those decisions are the result of a planning process with all elements of the business involved, then the decisions made will be good ones, and, to the extent s decision is not the best decision, through monitoring it will be changed when necessary. On the other hand, if decisions are made outside the planning process, the quality of the decisions will be greatly reduced.
With an effective dynamic planning process, the time between setting a goal, creating the action taken to reach the goal, and revising the action or goal as necessary is much reduced. As the elements of the planning process change the plan format documents the changes and the elements of the planning process are informed.
A dynamic planning process in place allows a decision to be made and implemented as is appropriate. A decision needing to be implemented immediately can be, and the decision requiring a delay can be on hold until the time is right. With traditional planning methods, the planning process is not integrated into decision-making for short-term business actions. Strategic planning does not influence operational planning to the extent it should. Dynamic planning allows integrating strategic planning with operational planning without process delay. Moreover, when the time for the decision comes, the business can react. This ability to time decision-making increases the effectiveness of the planning process and the effect of the actions taken by the business.