Tag Archives: planning process

The Planning Process in a Twitter World

I’m an analog dinosaur in a digital world. In the 1970s, I participated in an organizational planning process that lasted for nearly a year, concluding in an excellent document with many dozens of pages that came to rest on the “bottom shelf” and not the “bottom line.”

Then, ours was a Father Knows Best World – driven from the top down, operating at a snail’s pace compared with today, where we live at the speed of thought – where opportunities happen within the blink of an eye. Planning is still critically important, but the process now must be “fast, hot and cheap!” Real fast.

To convert this concept of planning to a concrete “Tweet” (fewer than 140 characters), I offer the following formula/framework: Planning includes purpose, passion, perseverance and precise performance creating a personalized and positive client experience. (128 words) This planning can be completely researched in less than an hour or two. I offer the process as “framing your future” – not the pyramid (top-down hierarchical model of yesterday) but rather a square framework capturing the part of the world marketplace that you wish to define and serve.

The base (foundation) of this framework is PURPOSE. This is the “why” of your future. Simon Sinek in his video – “Start With Why” –explains this as well as it can be done. If you are serious about the process of planning, start with the first 10 minutes of his presentation. If you don’t have time to do this, quit the process now and “continue to do what you’ve always done.”

See also: Go Digital… but Don’t Change Who You Are  

The left side of the frame is about PASSION. It is about the drive needed to live your purpose. Check out Susan Boyle’s audition on “Britain’s Got Talent.”

Watch the audience as she introduces herself – the skepticism of some and the contempt of others. In my mind, they were pre-judging the age, shape and condition of the “jukebox” from the outside and not the excellence of the “sounds (music) and passion” that was inside the “box.” In about three seconds, she won her skeptics over. Passion is needed for success.

The top side of the frame is PERSEVERANCE. It is about never quitting. It’s what (I believe) drove our troops onto the beaches at Normandy. It was about prevailing against all odds or to die trying. Check out online – Nick Vujicic, the limbless preacher. After watching about five minutes of any of his presentations, tell me about your problems or why you can’t-do something. Perseverance and quitting are choices. One will sustain you; the other will “restrain” you. You choose. Your results will be dictated by the choices you make.

The right side of this “planning” model is about performance, precision, and perfecting your product and delivery. It is about standing above the mediocrity that is most markets. It is about exceeding the expectations of your clients and the markets you serve.

It is not about being perfect in everything for everybody but is about being relentless in your pursuit of perfection. It is about becoming the “choice” of those individuals and populations that you choose to serve while recognizing they have many, if not unlimited, options. It’s more than “standing out in the crowd” – it’s about your clients and prospects searching for you and the experience you provide TO THEM in a very crowded global marketplace.

Sunday morning, my wife and I stopped at Starbucks. She loves the place and its drinks – I visit to observe the culture. I drink a small decaf coffee – she chooses a grande drink defined by words I don’t understand. She’s hip – I have an artificial hip.

Although I’m not a fan of Starbucks, I am envious of the marketing genius that was their creation. In 1970, a cup of coffee cost three cents at home and 25 cents out. Coffee was a commodity if you bought it by the pound at your supermarket. If you enjoyed coffee after a meal in a fine restaurant, it could be considered a “service.”

Starbucks leapfrogged all these distribution options and made coffee an experience. Today – for its devotees – it remains what some might consider an addiction. As I sat in the Starbucks last Sunday, I watched people stand in line to order their drink du jour and occasionally a “treat” to eat, then stand in line again to await its preparation. Many would grab and go with their drink – others would then move to a small table in a crowded room alone or with their posse – trying to talk loud enough to be heard and soft enough to not be overheard. Get the picture?

See also: The Challenges of ‘Data Wrangling’  

What caught my eye were the “splash sticks” that were being inserted into the cover of the filled coffee cups. I don’t know if they are there to keep the coffee hot or to keep it in the cup. To me, it was Starbucks’ never-ending pursuit for the “perfect experience” for their customer or more correctly their “followers.” Starbucks has been successful – it is the “little things,” the endless pursuit of perfection, that will assure their future.

Does your organization live its Purpose, with Passion, Persevering regardless of the circumstances, and constantly monitoring and demanding Performance, Precision and innovating to assure Perfecting the client Experience?

How to Develop an Innovation Perspective

There once was an immutable law in business: to increase quality, you must increase cost. In other words, to make something better, you must spend more. The principle seems quaint now given the generally held expectation that we should get more and pay less at the same time.

One reason for this change in mindset is a collection of business disciplines often referred to as total quality management. Throughout the 1980s, ’90s, and into the 2000s, businesses across the world introduced techniques such as statistical process control, kaizen, quality circles, employee involvement, the Toyota Way and the teachings of W. Edwards Deming into multiple areas of their business.

What does this have to do with today and with financial services? Businesses everywhere are now challenged with delivering consistent, meaningful innovation to meet customers’ growing expectations. New technologies offer the promise of different business models that simultaneously deliver higher value to both companies and consumers.

Companies making progress with innovation adjust their traditional business processes to include an “innovation perspective.” This is particularly true in the annual planning process used to select which strategic projects will be funded and which will not.

One approach is similar to portfolio management, where a set of choices are profiled according to different factors. The result is then reviewed to determine which factors are overweight, which are under and which are not addressed at all.

The first step is to select 20 to 25 projects considered to be the most important strategic business initiatives in the organization for the coming planning horizon. There is no magic to this number, but there is a practical limit within which choices can be made efficiently.

Second, each project should be reviewed to identify its strategic intent. This is defined as the principal reason that an initiative is undertaken. Many high-profile projects are pursued for a multiple of reasons; however, it is important that one central, driving motivation be chosen for each item.

Next, identify which type of change each project seeks to make. To label these, the company must have agreed-upon definitions for different types of changes. Again, it is important to limit the number of labels. What has proven successful is a three-tiered model of improvement, innovation and disruption.

Once these two dimensions are identified for each project, plot the results on a 2×2 matrix or on a graph showing the intersection of different strategic levers and types of projects. The visual will clearly show where there are clusters of initiatives and where there is no representation at all.

Teams of senior leaders can then challenge their results and ask a number of questions, including:

  • Given our strategic intent, are our “bets” the right ones?
  • Are our resources aligned against the right initiatives?
  • Are we being bold enough regarding innovation?
  • Are there disruptive technologies that should be tested?
  • Where are we at risk of losing ground against competitors?
  • What trade-offs in the portfolio need to be made?
  • Is the organization ready for the changes required?

Research in insurance has shown a predictable concentration of initiatives that are improvement projects related to the strategic lever of efficiency and expense reduction. Disruptive efforts are not prevalent, but where they are present are usually related to product and market strategies.

This model is not intended to replace current budgeting tools or planning methods used by project management offices or finance teams but is meant to introduce the concept of innovation into the control process. The desired outcome is a plan that considers the impact of more, or less, innovation in an approved project portfolio. As the annual budgeting cycle begins for firms on a calendar-year reporting schedule, companies are encouraged to include an innovation perspective in their deliberations.