Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Getting Value from the Yearly Planning Cycle

Key Takeaway: If you take nothing else away from what I write below, take away this Vimeo video of Don Reinertsen: Decentralizing Control: How Aligned Initiative Conquers Uncertainty

A while back, I wrote an article about the yearly planning cycle. I don't argue that the common top-down yearly planning cycle should be scrapped altogether. Yet there are some typical problems with it.

My top two issues as I wrote then are as follows:

1. Being top-down, the cycle can easily miss out on all the wisdom found in the trenches.

2. When leaders go on retreat and come back with directives that nobody's seen before, the education and engagement lift to get buy-in from everyone seems as unlikely and as expensive as possible. Surely there's a better way to achieve buy-in.

After I wrote that I re-read a section of Don Reinertsen's "Flow" book on the topic of planning. As he rehearses, in the military, planning is done to achieve alignment.

According to this strategy, it's understood that the plans will change. That doesn't negate the purpose of the planning. Once people are initially aligned, then they can make the necessary adjustments from there. They are empowered to make appropriate adjustments.

This has been tested in the field of battle. There's a strong argument for this strategy. I find it compelling. Yet I don't hear much talk about doing this in business.

To me, this is yet another case where great practices and ideas are already here, but just not distributed widely.

So, the takeaway for me is, if an org is doing the yearly planning cycle with the goal in mind to achieve alignment, then the game plan still needs to be understood across the organization, but it's not a problem if adjustments are made if they're done strategically.

If the goal in mind is to make a plan and then stick to it no matter what (pretty much), that's a heavier lift. Whatever org decides to do that should be prepared to spend more time and effort achieving awareness, buy-in, and engagement.

From my experiences in business, the buy-in and engagement are both the more difficult areas to get right and the most neglected. So, I'll have to talk more about that later.

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