When Planning Becomes Dynamic

People who do not plan often speak of things never turning out as planned. They also say they do not have time to plan. And I understand. Often things do not turn out as planned. If you perceive planning as predicting the future, why would you prioritize time for planning?

So why should people in business plan? Because it helps you make better decisions. Planning is decision-making in a structured procedure. You try to understand a situation, take action based on a projected result, and, when the results are not what you wanted, you then can ask: “What was it that I did not understand?” Without that frame of reference, the same error of judgment could and probably will be repeated. Planning is not about trying to predict the future. It is about making decisions: setting goals, taking actions to reach goals, and making revisions when those actions do not reach the goals. If there is no plan, there is nothing to revise.

If you do not understand how planning can help you make good decisions, then you will not prioritize planning in your schedule. Once you see that planning will help you make better decisions and thereby experience better business results, you will prioritize time for planning.

The traditional approach to strategic planning involves a great deal of time – brainstorming, retreats, the listing of core values, drafting mission statements – and, frankly, a lot of this is a waste of time. The result often was pages of narrative in a three-ring notebook resting on a shelf until the next retreat. However, planning can be done dynamically in an agile manner. Decisions can be made quickly and still be the product of a quality decision-making process bringing better business results. Planning can be dynamic.

The elements of a dynamic planning process that provide agility occur with the revision of the plan and format of the planning communication with decision-making groups.

All of the phases of the planning cycle (articulating values, setting goals, creating an action plan, taking action, monitoring results, and revising) should be on a format meeting certain requirements. Whether it be a software program such as Teams or simply a spreadsheet, all involved should be able to see the goal, the action to be taken, and the monitoring. Since the plan most likely will not predict the future, then the revision process answers the query, “why did it not go as planned?” Those answering should be all involved in the execution of the plan – seeing the goal and the results of the action.

Articulating values and setting goals is difficult interpersonal work that needs to be done between ownership and higher management. That is an ongoing process and some of it needs to be confidential. But once business goals are set, those who are charged with meeting those goals need to be informed about the goals and why those goals are in the best interest of the business. The goals are the first item on the planning format. In creating the action planning to accomplish the goals, those involved with production and operations should be involved in the decision-making group. The actions to be taken should be described on the format. The results of the actions need to be monitored and that monitoring documented on the format.

The revision process starts with asking if the goal is reasonable. If it is, then the issue is why did the action taken not accomplish the goal? The answers to this can be formulated by the same decision-making group that created the action plan and changes made on the format. This revision process can be very quick. The planning process can take a long time when the information is not assembled and available to all who are involved in decision-making groups.

If the goal is now unreasonable (unattainable or irrelevant), then the policy-making group needs to formulate a new goal, and the planning process completely cycles. Unlike the situation where there is no process in place, the format of the plan shows the prior goal and earlier actions and results. The revised goal is made known through the plan communication format. The action-creation group decides on what actions should continue and what should be changed or added. Those changes are made known on the plan format and the actions implemented. The results of the action are made known by monitoring data which is also communicated by means of the plan format. This decision-making should be quick and transparent.

The planning process becomes dynamic when the format of the plan – the way the plan is communicated – provides the right information to the right people to make timely decisions as they are needed.