Posts Tagged ‘planning’

By Richard Martin

Business leaders must constantly decide on how much time to devote to future planning versus present action. The needs of day-to-day management and decision-making tend to swamp us as leaders and managers. We get caught up in immediate, tactical issues, and lose sight of the bigger picture, where we are ultimately headed, and what we will do once they we there.

Should we focus on immediate goals and problems, or should we live more in the future, even to the point of only considering our long-term vision and development of our organizations? At extremes, we could devote all our time and resources to the present or, conversely, we could be pure “visionaries.” In fact, wisdom lies somewhere in between, neither being purely myopic nor purely far-sighted. But how should we make this decision, and how do we determine when and how much they need to shift our attention from the near to the medium to the long term?

The key lies in what I call the “future paradox.” Some decisions and actions will have immediate or short-term results. Others will take longer to come to fruition, even to the extent of taking years before they are fully actualized and the results are in. This can generate a significant lag between decision, action, and results, between cause and effect. The problem comes from this lag.

We can’t afford to be stuck in the present, but the further out we look, the less the definition and clarity, the greater the uncertainty. Present commitments and decisions are essential to build future readiness and achieving distant objectives, but these may severely constrain our future freedom of action.

 

This is the future paradox: We must decide and act now to generate short-, medium-, and long-term effects, but we can only do this with increasingly fuzzy knowledge and information. In other words, change takes time, but conditions can and do change between our decision point and the time that our actions start taking effect.

We have a current reality and we articulate a vision of where we want to be in the future. This vision is nothing but the overarching objective of our undertaking. To speak in military terms, it can be to win a war or achieve an peaceful outcome in our nation’s interests. But it can also be to capture a road crossing and then be ready to face a counter-attack. In business, it can be a strategic goal, for instance to launch a major international expansion, or it can be much more mundane and tactical, for instance to win a contract with a new client. It is the future vision that drives most of our decisions. The gap between the objective and the current reality is the fuel for planning and decision-making. It frames our actions in the short, medium, and long terms. Over time, we should approach—and eventually arrive—at our ultimate destination, our vision, or overarching objective.

Some things we can do relatively easily and quickly. These decisions lead to short-term plans and actions. Others take more preparation and lead time. These are our medium-term plans and actions. Finally, some things we must start right away, with a view to gaining results only in the longer-term future. For instance, we can be facing a decision on whether to invest in a new factory. We must secure the capital and start the building or acquisition process now, but it can take months or years before the new facility comes on line. This requires a long-term plan and actions.

To make matters even more complex, though, the definition of short, medium, and long terms depends on the scope of responsibilities and roles. For a large company, the long-term can be, in some cases, decades. For a sales person or a production team, it can be tomorrow or next week. It is the scope of activities and effects that determines the extent of the time horizons under consideration.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

by Richard Martin

That’s the title of a song popularized and sung by Nat King Cole. Here in Canada, and especially in Quebec, things tend to get lazier, hazier, and yes, even a bit crazier, in the summer. I think it has to do with our (he says clearing his throat)–shall we say–interesting climate? Canadians spend most of the year fighting against the weather, so when it gets nice for about 2 months in the summer, we tend to let things ride a bit more. Unfortunately, a lot of people kick back so much that they put everything on hold. “Too many key people are on vacation.” “We’ll get to this after the summer.” “Nobody’s thinking about this right now, so don’t be a party-pooper.”

Well, life goes on. We can’t just pretend that business and life stop because it’s summer. In most areas of the world, summer is actually when things get done and life gets more hectic. Back in January I kicked off the new year with a list of the steps for ensuring the continuous and continuing focus throughout the year on building organizational and strategic readiness (See this link.). Not just once or twice, but actually incorporating a readiness mindset into all your processes and systems on a regular basis.

Here’s what I suggested for the 2nd quarter:

April-May: Issue guidance for next fiscal year so that the entire organization can identify their planning focus and prepare to hit the ground running when the next year starts. These plans should be briefed up the “chain of command” so they are fully aligned with the strategic and operational guidance and direction.

June: Review performance of first half and adjust plans and focus to end of current year. Submit initial budget forecasts, especially for funding of special projects, new product development, marketing initiatives, etc.

And for the 3rd quarter:

July-August: Senior leadership reviews long-term plans and projects under the 2-3 year forecasting framework. Budgets and plans at all levels are reviewed and adjusted in accordance with strategic forecasts and intent for next fiscal year (starting in 4-5 months).

September: Senior leadership confirms overall budgets and plans for next fiscal year and issues updated guidance and direction to organization. Subordinate elements of the organization adjust their plans and forecasts to align with this guidance.

Well? How are you doing so far? It’s not too late to get caught up on the 2nd quarter tasks. As for July and August, these are the perfect months to look ahead and gain a sense of where you will head at the start of the next year.

Seems a bit premature? Actually, it’s when people are focused on other things, on their vacations, and the fine weather, that you should be thinking ahead. You probably have a bit more time to reflect and plan, and to prepare for the post-Labour Day rush (see September above).

by Richard Martin

That’s a quote attributed to Admiral David Farragut of the Union Navy during a battle in the U.S. Civil War. It’s a great quote for anyone who believes you always have to drive at full speed to get to where you want to go. The problem is that it’s only good in special circumstances, usually when you’re backed into a corner and have no other alternative.

I was reminded of this just this past week as I discussed the matter of deliberate planning and consideration of options with a client. She’s a very successful businesswoman who has mostly functioned on the basis of the “damn the torpedoes” approach to decision-making. It’s worked for her on many an occasion, but it’s also gotten her into serious jams that could have easily been avoided with a little rational consideration of her options at important decision points.

She’s one of those entrepreneurs who has always followed her gut and believes she has the gumption to achieve anything she sets her sights on. While this is no doubt true, there is also a cost to her decisions about which goals and courses of action to pursue. She might have a great vision for her business, but it might simply not be the best time to proceed. That’s where strategic patience and self-control come into play. She has to consider the key factors impinging on her decisions and her plans to implement them. Does she have a good chance of success? Are the right conditions there to support her undertaking? Is she paying the right price or is she barreling ahead, “damn the torpedoes” style? And the price isn’t always financial. It can be in time, effort, emotional engagement, physical presence, or any of a number of other commitments she will have to make to make her dreams come to fruition.

A key lesson I learned as an army officer was to try as much as possible to slow down my decision-making in order to consider the full ramifications of the situation and assess the critical factors affecting my decisions and the range of actions at that point. This is called the estimate process. Naturally, you sometimes have to make a quick decision under fire. But this doesn’t mean you act on instinct alone. Intuition can only be an adjunct to a rational decision process, what the army calls a combat estimate. On many occasions, though, no one is shooting at you (yet), so you must take the time to sit down and work out all the factors and options, both for you and the enemy, and then develop a well-thought-out plan. This is known as a deliberate estimate of the situation.

Interestingly, the greater the import of the decision, the more we all tend to rely on our instincts, when it’s exactly the opposite that should be the case. My client, successful as she is, has realized that she must put more effort and self-control into her critical decision-making and planning. She’ll only come out stronger, and so will you if you do the same thing.

New Testimonial

“Richard has been instrumental in getting me to draw on my hard-won experience and ideas to turn them into marketable intellectual property and products. His disciplined, systematic approach has already led to several significant accomplishments for me. Whether you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur, or working to get to the next level, Richard can boost your productivity and organizational effectiveness. Be forewarned, though. There is no magic formula, just systematic thinking, disciplined execution, and… Richard Martin.”

Caroline Salette, Owner and President, RE/MAX Royal Jordan Inc. and Salette Group Inc.

Richard Martin’s Business Readiness Process:

  1. Ensure vigilance through situational awareness.
  2. Do preliminary assessment of tasks and time.
  3. Activate organization or team.
  4. Conduct reconnaissance.
  5. Do detailed situational estimate.
  6. Conduct wargame and decide on optimal course(s) of action.
  7. Perform risk management and contingency planning.
  8. Communicate plan and issue direction.
  9. Build organizational robustness.
  10. Ensure operational continuity.
  11. Lead and control execution.
  12. Assess performance.

Contact me to apply the whole thing–or just a piece, as needed–to improve your strategy, your readiness… and your results!

Did you know that an infantry battalion only needs about 3 to 4 hours of prep and planning time to be battle ready? What are you waiting for to get the same benefits for your outfit?

Why Sunday and What Does “Stand To” Mean?

Sunday? I want you to get my insights and advice first and fast, so you can prepare and up your readiness and results before others even know what’s happening!

And Stand To? It’s the order used in the military to get forces to man the parapets and be in a heightened state of situational awareness and, yes, readiness, so they can face any threat or undertake any mission.

My name is Richard Martin and I’m an expert on applying readiness principles to position companies and leaders to grow and thrive by shaping and exploiting change and opportunity, instead of just passively succumbing to uncertainty and risk.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

by Richard Martin

There are three pillars underlying readiness: vigilance, preparedness, and robustness. Vigilance involves staying on the lookout for changes and trends. Preparedness is about creating conditions for future success. Robustness is the capacity to sustain hits and disruptions and to continue functioning in the face of obstacles, friction, and opposition.

However, not everyone in an organization exercises and implements vigilance, preparedness, and robustness in the same manner. A salesperson or production manager has different concerns, responsibilities and perspectives than the CEO or VP Marketing. It’s critical to view the situation through the most appropriate lens. Are we developing strategic readiness, operational readiness, or tactical readiness?

Strategic readiness views the world through the lens of conflict and competition. It is the perspective of any entity striving to survive and thrive in the face of uncertain conditions and the antagonistic actions of other entities. If there are no conflicting or competing interests, there is no need for strategy. Thus, we need strategy for warfare, politics, business, fundraising, and sports, for example, but we don’t need strategy to build a bridge, perform a musical score, or decorate a house. In essence, strategy entails a contest of wills with rivals who want what we want and are willing to interfere with our aims, and we with theirs, under conditions of risk and uncertainty.

Operational readiness is the perspective through which strategy is translated into concrete plans and actions on the ground. It bridges the conceptual and organizational gaps between strategy and tactics. The key questions in operations are: How can we achieve the organization’s objectives and implement its strategy? What resources and capabilities are needed? How much time will this take? What are the sequence of events, the preliminary actions to create conditions for success, and the intended “flow” of the campaign? Not everything can be achieved at once, nor to its fullest extent. Operational leaders must therefore set priorities and assess the feasibility of various options before deciding on a definite course of action for implementation.

Tactical readiness takes the view that conditions, resources, and tasks are mostly set. You go into battle with the hand you’ve been dealt and make the best of it. There is little room for manoeuvre and limited scope to adjust missions, tasks, and goals. In military terms, once troops have been committed to action, they must achieve victory in a succession of engagements, and these cumulative successes are what lead, quickly one hopes, to the success of the strategy.

Are you in an existential struggle? Are you facing opposition, competition, and conflict? Could any of these change the course of your ultimate purpose and vision? If yes, then you’re dealing with strategic readiness. If you’re considering various courses of action, the different ways of achieving your strategic outcomes, what systems, structures, and processes are needed to be successful, then you must view the situation through the lens of operational readiness. Finally, if you’re considering the immediate actions you must take given a relatively immutable set of conditions, then you must see the situation as one of tactical readiness.

The three pillars of readiness, vigilance, preparedness, and robustness, will vary depending on whether you’re considering the situation strategically, operationally, or tactically (or a combination of these). I’ll explore these three readiness perspectives in coming Stand To‘s.

Richard Martin’s Business Readiness Process:

  1. Ensure vigilance through situational awareness.
  2. Do preliminary assessment of tasks and time.
  3. Activate organization or team.
  4. Conduct reconnaissance.
  5. Do detailed situational estimate.
  6. Conduct wargame and decide on optimal course(s) of action.
  7. Perform risk management and contingency planning.
  8. Communicate plan and issue direction.
  9. Build organizational robustness.
  10. Ensure operational continuity.
  11. Lead and control execution.
  12. Assess performance.

Contact me to apply the whole thing–or just a piece, as needed–to improve your strategy, your readiness… and your results!

Did you know that an infantry battalion only needs about 3 to 4 hours of prep and planning time to be battle ready? What are you waiting for to get the same benefits for your outfit?

Why Sunday and What Does “Stand To” Mean?

Sunday? I want you to get my insights and advice first and fast, so you can prepare and up your readiness and results before others even know what’s happening!

And Stand To? It’s the order used in the military to get forces to man the parapets and be in a heightened state of situational awareness and, yes, readiness, so they can face any threat or undertake any mission.

My name is Richard Martin and I’m an expert on applying readiness principles to position companies and leaders to grow and thrive by shaping and exploiting change and opportunity, instead of just passively succumbing to uncertainty and risk.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

 

by Richard Martin
I’ve often heard this ridiculous statement, inside and outside the military: “We can’t take time to strategize and plan; we’re too busy right now.”But if not now, when? Considering the future and planning is no different than any other habit. You have to set aside the time and resources to “just do it” (Remember the Nike ads?) Would you avoid getting up in the morning and going to work just because you don’t want to, or think you have other/better things to do?

Here are some guidelines to help you get in the habit of strategizing and planning for the near and more distant future:
  • Set aside time every day to consider the next few days (5-10 minutes). It’s a good idea to work a week ahead on a running basis.
  • Set aside time once a week (1 hour) to consider the next month. Apply the same running approach by focusing on the next month on a weekly basis. This allows you to integrate and assess new information periodically while staying a month ahead.
  • Quarterly reviews and projections for the next year on the same basis are required. Don’t just focus on getting to the end of the current year. This is endemic in businesses trying to “make their numbers” in the final quarter. That’s fine at the tactical level, but if you’re only concentrating on the next weeks and months, you’re going to miss implementing needed changes and plans for the next year(s).
  • Finally, at least once a year, preferably every 6 months, conduct a strategy/planning session to look out 18-36 months. The actual timeframe will depend on the nature of your business, speed of change, competitive threats and opportunities, and financial position and projections. This comes in addition to your annual strategic planning cycle I described a few weeks ago.
Think this is a lot of planning? Well, what’s the alternative? If you, as a leader and manager aren’t taking the time and putting in the effort to “see beyond the next hill,” then who in your team is?
Richard Martin’s Business Readiness Process:
  1. Ensure vigilance through situational awareness.
  2. Do preliminary assessment of tasks and time.
  3. Activate organization or team.
  4. Conduct reconnaissance.
  5. Do detailed situational estimate.
  6. Conduct wargame and decide on optimal course(s) of action.
  7. Perform risk management and contingency planning.
  8. Communicate plan and issue direction.
  9. Build organizational robustness.
  10. Ensure operational continuity.
  11. Lead and control execution.
  12. Assess performance.

Contact me to apply the whole thing–or just a piece, as needed–to improve your strategy, your readiness… and your results!

Did you know that an infantry battalion only needs about 3 to 4 hours of prep and planning time to be battle ready? What are you waiting for to get the same benefits for your outfit?
Why Sunday and What Does “Stand To” Mean?
Sunday? I want you to get my insights and advice first and fast, so you can prepare and up your readiness and results before others even know what’s happening!
And Stand To? It’s the order used in the military to get forces to man the parapets and be in a heightened state of situational awareness and, yes, readiness, so they can face any threat or undertake any mission.


My name is Richard Martin and I’m an expert on applying readiness principles to position companies and leaders to grow and thrive by shaping and exploiting change and opportunity, instead of just passively succumbing to uncertainty and risk.


© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

by Richard Martin

Back in January I listed the actions and milestones for improving readiness over the course of the year. Here is what I highlighted for Q1:

  • January: Review the previous year’s results and compare them to what had been anticipated and planned. Prepare for the annual strategy and forecasting retreat.
  • February-March: Conduct the annual strategy and forecasting retreat. The aim is to confirm the current year’s plans, develop guidance for planning the next year (starting in 9-10 months’ time), and develop outline forecasts and plans for the following one or two years after next.

Well, we’re over half way through Q1. Have you been progressing in conducting these reviews, forecasts and plans? Have you planned your annual strategy and forecasting retreat? Do you know who will be involved? Do you have an overarching goal and intent for this year and next?

Despite what many people say and believe, this doesn’t have to be a lengthy process. You need up-to-date financials and data and one day to conduct the retreat. If you’re disciplined about it, you will end the day with a unified understanding of your situation, the overarching vision (which is nothing more than your strategic goal), the organization’s mission, and the main and supporting thrusts and priorities to achieve this strategy, including positioning and differentiation and enabling capabilities.

I can help you with all of this. Call me for a Strategic Readiness Briefing now and we can discuss how to proceed quickly and efficiently.

Remember Richard’s Business Readiness Process in 2017!

  1. Ensure vigilance through situational awareness.
  2. Do preliminary assessment of tasks and time.
  3. Activate organization or team.
  4. Conduct reconnaissance.
  5. Do detailed situational estimate.
  6. Conduct wargame and decide on optimal course(s) of action.
  7. Perform risk management and contingency planning.
  8. Communicate plan and issue direction.
  9. Build organizational robustness.
  10. Ensure operational continuity.
  11. Lead and control execution.
  12. Assess performance.

Did you know that an infantry battalion only needs about 3 to 4 hours of prep and planning time to be battle ready? What are you waiting for to get the same benefits for your outfit?

Feel free to contact me at any time to discuss your objectives and needs.

And remember… STAND TO!!!

My name is Richard Martin and I’m an expert on applying readiness principles to position companies and leaders to grow and thrive by shaping and exploiting change and opportunity, instead of just passively succumbing to uncertainty and risk.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

Rolling Barrage

by Richard Martin

Last week we looked at the “future paradox.” The further into the future one looks, the greater the uncertainty. Parallel with this, the lead time for complex initiatives and plans and the lag time between intentions and realization can sometimes be years. We must therefore commit now for things in the future even while not having a full appreciation of the conditions that will prevail when our plans come to fruition.

I’ve developed the following yearly planning framework as a cyclical process to offset future uncertainty and rapid change with regular performance assessments and updating of forecasts, assumptions, and decisions.

This leads to a rolling 3-year forecasting and planning cycle. Think of it as a rolling barrage that overcomes the future paradox. The cycle can shorter or longer depending on your environmental and organizational realities. (I assume that fiscal year = calendar year.)

January: Review the previous year’s results and compare them to what had been anticipated and planned. Prepare for the annual strategy and forecasting retreat.

February-March: Conduct the annual strategy and forecasting retreat. The aim is to confirm the current year’s plans, develop guidance for planning the next year (starting in 9-10 months’ time), and develop outline forecasts and plans for the following one or two years after next.

April-May: Issue guidance for next fiscal year so that the entire organization can identify their planning focus and prepare to hit the ground running when the next year starts. These plans should be briefed up the “chain of command” so they are fully aligned with the strategic and operational guidance and direction.

June: Review performance of first half and adjust plans and focus to end of current year. Submit initial budget forecasts, especially for funding of special projects, new product development, marketing initiatives, etc.

July-August: Senior leadership reviews long-term plans and projects under the 2-3 year forecasting framework. Budgets and plans at all levels are reviewed and adjusted in accordance with strategic forecasts and intent for next fiscal year (starting in 4-5 months).

September: Senior leadership confirms overall budgets and plans for next fiscal year and issues updated guidance and direction to organization. Subordinate elements of the organization adjust their plans and forecasts to align with this guidance.

October: Senior leadership reviews year-to-date and issues guidance and direction to end of current year. Can hold a visioning and scenario-based planning retreat to identify potential opportunities and threats in next 3-5 years and to feed planning and preparation for next year’s forecasting and strategy cycle.

October-November: Organizational elements conduct detailed implementation planning and organizing to be ready to implement projects and initiatives in next year.

December: Overall review of cyclical process with recommendations to amend for improved efficiency and effectiveness in next year.

Remember Richard’s Business Readiness Process in 2017!

  1. Ensure vigilance through situational awareness.
  2. Do preliminary assessment of tasks and time.
  3. Activate organization or team.
  4. Conduct reconnaissance.
  5. Do detailed situational estimate.
  6. Conduct wargame and decide on optimal course(s) of action.
  7. Perform risk management and contingency planning.
  8. Communicate plan and issue direction.
  9. Build organizational robustness.
  10. Ensure operational continuity.
  11. Lead and control execution.
  12. Assess performance.

Call me for a Business Readiness Briefing!

My name is Richard Martin and I’m an expert on applying readiness principles to position companies and leaders to grow and thrive by shaping and exploiting change and opportunity, instead of just passively succumbing to uncertainty and risk.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.