CategoryStrategy and Planning Archives — C. Lynn Northrup, CPA, CPIM
Everyone talks about doing strategic planning, but how many really understand it. I think it is simple and can be in three steps:
- Where are we?
- Where do we want to be?
- How do we get there?
How many businesses really take the time to stop and address these questions? Many organizations just go from day to day and never dig into the real issues raised by these three questions.
Strategic planning isn’t easy, but the payoff can be huge. It can alert organizations to opportunities in addition to challenges that lie ahead. We operate in a complex and rapidly changing world and gaining insight into the future can make the difference between success or failure. It can help avoid trouble or help to maintain control during a period of rapid change.
Assessing where we are involves looking at financial history, marketing, competition, problems, and opportunities. Pulling all this information together is hard work to create a foundation for planning.
Where do we want to be provides the results for visioning, innovation, and looking beyond right now. I think visons are the result of dreams of where we want to be. We then need to convert them into measurable goals and objectives. This can include profit and sales targets, market share, and ideas for new products and businesses.
We create strategies into how we get where we want to go. This is the nitty gritty of how we accomplish goals and setting new directions to take us into the future. Strategies can include some old established ideas in addition to new concepts that are completely out of the box. The planning process will detail the costs, resources, projected results, and a timeline for meeting our objectives.
The result of our planning boils down to what we need to do today to make the future be what we want it to be.
Change starts with a sense of true urgency and in most cases needs to be created to make things happen. The enemy of urgency is complacency. Complacent people don’t look for new opportunities and they pay more attention to their internal feelings than external feelings. They tend to move slow when they need to move fast. What ever worked in the past is what guides them.
While anxiety and fear can drive behavior that might be mistaken for urgency, the resulting actions tend to be non-productive. This is called false urgency resulting from failure. The thought process from a sense of false urgency usually is not productive and proactive. It typically is mindless wheel spinning that creates no positive results.
A true sense of urgency is created and recreated by communicating the existence of great opportunities together with the existing hazards and roadblocks. People engaged in a true sense of urgency exhibit a strong need to move and win, now. The biggest challenge about creating a sense of urgency is taking the first step in initiating the action needed to succeed in a changing world. Real urgency isn’t a natural state of affairs because it needs to continually be created to get change initiatives moving and in the right direction. In a constantly changing world, the good news is that there are an over abundant number of opportunities that can be utilized to create true urgencies.
A true sense of urgency evolves from a set of feelings that creates a compulsive determination to move right now. True urgency is a process of winning the hearts and minds of the people needed to make change happen. Mindless emotion doesn’t get the job done. Winning change strategies utilize sound, ambitious, but logical goals using methods allowing people to experience the feelings that embrace the determination needed to make things happen.
The strategy for producing a true sense of urgency focuses on creating very alert, visibly oriented action, aimed at winning with daily progress toward achieving the vision and goals targeted at core emotional feelings. Here are the four tactics needed to make this strategy successful:
- Reconnect internal reality with external opportunities and obstacles using data, people, video, and other media.
- Avoid acting anxious or angry and always effectively demonstrate your own sense of urgency in meetings, one-on-one interactions and other communication with the people engaged in the change process.
- Take the opportunity to determine if crises can be used to your advantage and always proceed with caution.
- Remove the negative and urgency skeptics and keep the group complacent to avoid destructive negative urgency.
In addition to these four tactics is the necessity of keeping up the pressure to maintain a sense of continued urgency. The trap that can occur is achieving success and then losing your momentum of continuous improvement. Short-term success does not always translate to long-term results.
Here are some thoughts on maintaining urgency after making a successful change. Always be on the alert for potential declines in the sense of urgency. Realize that complacency can set in so be ready with backup solutions to maintain momentum. Take advantage of new developments to apply to change initiatives and improvements. Essentially, building a culture acting with a high sense of urgency will focus on the strategy for producing a true sense of urgency and application of the four tactics that are needed to make a positive change become a constant.