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Tailoring Your Planning Process

February 26, 2014 7 comments

It is that time of the year when you typically conduct planning session with your teams. I just came from one that I facilitated a week ago. I would like to share the planning methodology that we used. This planning process that I am going to share with you is nothing new and nothing that I came up with. You can find a lot of planning methodologies out there, if you Google it.

It is important to understand the current situation and needs that your organization has in a particular point in time, and then use it to tailor your planning process.

It is important that your team understands the entire planning process—what it is that you are trying to accomplish and what are the expected deliverables. I usually allot an adequate portion of the planning meeting to explain the “tailored” planning methodology. At this particular instance, I started out by showing the team the atlas of the universe; then the solar system; and then a picture of our planet earth; then I showed the a picture that represents our company or the business enterprise that we belong to; and finally, a box with an arrow going upward. I told the team, “that box represents us.” I explained why.

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Mission and Vision

The box represents us—our mission and vision as an organization (see diagram below). Our mission defines our purpose— what is in and what is out. It represents, in the broadest sense, who we are. The vision is where we want to be as a group in a period of time in the future. The arrow from where we are now (point a) to where we want to be (point b) represent the shortest path to achieving our vision.

Our group had the opportunity to define our vision in our planning session last year, so that was something that we carried on and will carry on in the next couple more years. It is an input to this year’s planning process.

It is important to know where you are at the multi-year planning cycle to best tailor your team’s planning process for that particular year.

Last year, the first year of our planning cycle, we did the following:

  • Invited key stakeholders of the company to speak to us about the business strategy, their expectations and needs.
  • Gathered customer feedback from different forums and channels.
  • Analyzed operative and project results from previous years.
  • Conducted a team discussion around organizational concerns.
  • Identified and discussed our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats as a team.
  • Established our vision for the next 4 years- articulated in a vision statement.
  • Define our objectives and goals for the first year.

All the things that we accomplished in our planning session last year were used as inputs. We also analyzed the relevancy of some of our foundational objectives.

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After reviewing the inputs from last year, the next thing that we did as a group was to do the “look back”. We talked about the operative and project successes from the past year. It was important to identify lessons learned and to convey key messages that align to the overall company direction and strategy. We had the team present those success stories by relating their experiences and journey. 

Balance Scorecard and Strategy Mapping

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To articulate our P&IT strategy we decided to use the time tested Balanced Scorecard approach and complemented it with Strategy Mapping. The Balance Scorecard, created by Robert Kaplan and David Norton, is one of the most popular and comprehensive tools for defining strategy and reporting performance in executing that strategy. This approach forces you to classify key measures and objectives used in your organization according to the four main perspectives— customer, financial, business process/ internal services, learning and growth. The key questions that we answered were:

  • Financial – To succeed financially, how should we appear to our stakeholders?
  • To achieve our vision, how should we appear to our customers?
  • To satisfy our stakeholders and customers, at what services must we excel and what projects must we deliver?
  • To achieve our vision how will we sustain our ability to change and improve?

The next complementary step is the mapping and analysis of the foundational objectives identified in the Balance Scorecard using Strategy Mapping techniques. By mapping how different objectives relate to one another, leaders can clearly see how to accomplish the stated objectives and how each one relates to the other. Many of those relationships go in a natural path from learning and growth to internal processes, to customer, finally to financial. To illustrate this concept, please refer to the diagram below. The blue boxes represent the identified foundational objectives classified in all four Balance Scorecard concepts. Then by relating those objectives based on causal linkage you form a story—your story, your strategy. In this strategy, the story goes:

You believe that by improving team culture, it is going to improve service delivery. And by improving service delivery, you believe that you will have more satisfied customers. And finally with improved service delivery and improved customer satisfaction you optimize IT cost. How those objectives flow and link represents your strategy.

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Objectives Setting

After we defined and agreed on a strategy and with it the foundational objectives, the next step is the most tedious and difficult step of the entire planning process. It is the actual definition of departmental, team, and individual objectives. When you get to the point when you start identifying what you need to do to accomplish the strategy, real work begins. The team needs to have a clear understanding of the strategy, the role of their department/team and their individual role in making it happen.Image

  • The first step is to break foundational objectives into departmental objectives. You can do this using a breakout session.
  • Teams within their departments identified next level objectives and initiatives that they are responsible for.
  • It is important to identify not only the initiatives/actions but also the measure and target by which the performance of the action will be measured.

In this process the common SMART method comes in handy. Your objectives have to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.

Finally, you have your mission and vision; you have your strategy and a detailed game plan (objectives) on how to bring your goals to fruition. The next challenge is to make it happen. I believe that the planning process does not stop after the initial planning process, which to me is the annual planning meeting. It is an ongoing process throughout the year. I like to borrow a term PMI uses- “progressive elaboration”.  As you go through the year, you monitor and control the execution of the plan, as well as the changes to it. As you progress through the year, you will gain more information, priorities might change, and business requirements might change– you progressively elaborate your plan aligned to the business and IT strategy.

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Work-life Lesson 5: Understand the Skills and Abilities that Differentiate You From everyone Else. Whenever You Have an Opportunity, Use Them.

by Glenn Remoreras, in collaboration with Ira Fialkow and Ivy Remoreras

It is common in business that companies conduct SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis to assess themselves in the current environment. However, it’s rarely that you see individuals regularly pursue similar SWOT analysis to assess their own skills, talents and opportunities. Uncertainties created by ever changing economic conditions and shifting technology  means companies must continually adjust to meet the needs of their markets and insure they have the skilled resources to innovate and deliver more value than their competitors or risk extinction..  It thus becomes imperative for you to know the skills and abilities that set you above the rest.  Not only does it help place you above your competition but it also enables you to know what other skill sets you can fall back on if and when necessary.

When creating your personal SWOT analysis, be sure to include all your skills and talents. This means even those that may not be directly related to your current job description. This lesson is actually the flip side of Lesson 3 – “Be your own toughest critic”.  You can’t forget the areas where you already excel.  You need to use those skills often, develop them and create an outlet for them.  At the same time, you need to be able to develop new skills.  This is especially true for dynamic fields that are impacted daily by changing technology.  The technology (and the skills related to it) available when you were in university could be years away from today’s technology.  If you didn’t keep abreast of current trends and skills, you would be obsolete.

It is especially critical for yourself and your organization to avoid a scarcity mentality, where you tend to protect the skills and talents you have in an effort to “stay employed”.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of rationalizing “I have been doing it this way for twenty years, we’ve been successful and it works; so why change?”  They will soon have a rude awakening when they find themselves and their skills obsolete, and possibly their entire organization.

A healthy innovative perspective is that of an abundance mentality, where the thinking is – “We need to share our skills; there’s more for everybody because when we collaborate we are creating something new and different, something better.”  Think of shareware and how people not only learn from one another but also build on each other’s work, knowledge, and experience.  The end product is as Ira used to say “ideas that build on each other” which is always better and more useful than the original product ever can be…and the collaboration brought a sense of ownership and pride to all involved. Which then leads to another benefit; the pride of ownership and the culture of caring that comes along with it. 

Take advantage of skills you are good at but not necessarily expected of you

For example, while you may think organizing community events has nothing to do with your job as an administrative assistant, you are wrong. Skills do not always have to be work-related. As long as your skills are beneficial to the company and to your group in some way, it becomes advantageous to you.  However, it is not enough that you know what you’re capable of. You need to let other people, most especially upper management, know about your other skills and how they can add value. What’s the best way to do this? Just like extracurricular activities in school were important, so it is at work.  If there are opportunities for you to use or exhibit your talents, then volunteer. For example, if you are naturally community minded, offer to be part of the committee for the company’s annual food bank drive for the local church or volunteer to organize a fun and healthy community benefiting activity like the March of Dimes Walk-a-thon.

Some people consider joining committees or groups outside of their job description as a waste of time.  Instead, think of it as an opportunity to showcase and develop your other skills.  This helps management get a broader sense of who you are and what you are capable of.  In addition, these committees or groups help you connect and work with other people in the company you would otherwise not be able to. This is especially true of large projects where you tend to get more exposure.

Part of accountability is continuous self-improvement.  Not only do you look at what you’re already good at but also what else you can develop. For example, if you have an affinity for languages, why not learn a new language (especially one relevant to your company).  I know of some friends whose careers opened up because they could speak a third (and even fourth) language. You should always seek to develop new skills. In this way, you and your skills will always be relevant and up-to-date.

As a manager, encourage your people to use and develop their skills

If you want your company to take advantage of your people’s talents and abilities, you need to develop a company culture allows people to leverage their skills and benefit the company.  This means getting to know the people you work with – beyond job descriptions.  It makes sense to find out what your employees enjoy doing in their spare time. Are they involved in community projects? What sort of activities or hobbies do they enjoy? You need to learn what people’s talents are and help develop them.  People need to feel comfortable in speaking up about their talents and creating opportunities to develop them.  If the boss is not open to seeing his subordinates beyond job descriptions, many talents and skills that could be beneficial to the company will go to waste.

Work-life Lesson 5 Takeaways: 

  • Do not forget things you’re already good at – use it, develop it and find an outlet for it. It is important not only to know your strengths but also to create opportunities to use and expose them.
  • Develop an abundance mentality versus scarcity mentality.  Skills can become obsolete so you need to learn how to adapt and develop new and more relevant skills.
  • Take advantage of the skills you are good at but not necessarily part of your current job description.
  • As a manager, you need to develop a holistic approach to a person. There needs to be a company culture where the people are encouraged to hone and develop their skills.

Link to Previous Lesson: Business Lesson 4: Learn how to give first-rate presentations so that the message you’re trying to deliver is the same one the audience receives


About the collaborators:

Ira Fialkow is the SVP of Member Services at Peeriosity. Peeriosity is a confidential network of leading companies from across the world committed to collaborating openly with each other in a completely secure environment with interactions free of consultants and vendors. Prior to Peeriosity, Ira was EVP of Shared Services at CEMEX and Rinker Group (acquired by CEMEX is 2007) from 1990 through joining Peeriosity in October 2010. Rinker Group was the initial recipient of the Best Mature Shared Services Award in 2003. Ira lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and has been the champion of his fantasy football league in three of the past five years.

Glenn Remoreras is an IT Manager at CEMEX. He brings over 12 years of experience as an IT director, business processes manager, project leader, and consultant. He has focused on enabling business solutions through the use of IT capabilities. Glenn has been involved with various international post merger integration projects.

Ivy Remoreras is a marketing professional with eight years of extensive experience, particularly in product management, communications and promotions as a manager, university instructor and consultant. She believes in constant learning and has a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA). Having resided in Europe, Asia and North America, she speaks four languages.

Photos courtesy of Vlado and Master Isolated Images.

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