Planning Beyond ‘Business As Usual’

I was walking through a train station a couple of years ago, contemplating life, work, and business, feeling vexed by the complexity of it all, when I suddenly looked and found myself confronted with a message so clear and powerful, I had to take it as a sign…. My peripatetic meanderings had brought me face to face with a giant billboard that said only “What are you waiting for?”

 

Serendipity? Perhaps. After all, I could just as easily have looked up to see a fast food billboard or wayfinding signage for the train platforms. But no, the first thing to catch my eye was this big, bold sign, with its insistent inquiry, urging me, it seemed, to move more quickly. To step forward in business in a manner that reflected the urgency of the times….

Strategy is Simple. Planning is Complex….

Strategy is simple: It’s a plan of action to achieve a desired goal. There’s something compelling about a clear and concise definition, isn’t there? Empowering perhaps…. As if to say, “You’ve got this!”

On the other hand, planning can be complex: engaging diverse stakeholders, weighing possible futures, and building consensus around the outcomes and the process itself often drive a dizzying range of options and possibilities. Add to this that most business strategy approaches are poorly equipped to embrace social, ecological and financial outcomes.

Yet these are exactly the questions next economy leaders are asking: How can strategy reach beyond the bottom line? Can it lead to doing something bigger? Can it help you make a real and enduring, positive impact in the world? And what is your best path to success?

Adapt to a Changing Context….

Static plans no longer serve. Society itself is changing too fast.

Over the past decade, Junxion’s approach to planning has shifted dramatically. Static plans no longer serve, because customers’ preferences, industry dynamics, and society itself are all changing at too fast a pace. Effective plans must flex and evolve as they’re implemented, responding to their changing context.

Put simply, your plan must embed learning, agility, and impact.

There are of course some ‘stakes in the ground’. A clear purpose and vision combine to make clear what you’re striving to achieve. Likewise, maintaining a focus on specific actions year-to-year, month-to-month, day-to-day will ensure you’re on the most direct path to success. But what we’re recognizing is that the most direct path can itself change through the duration of a plan. Clients that embrace the agility necessary to thrive today are developing ‘evergreen plans’ and embedding strategy as a discipline of management.

Three Steps to Plan Your Impact

Leaders of the next economy—the ambitious sorts of clients we work with at Junxion—are embracing a new way of thinking about strategy and planning. Here are three things they’re doing differently.

Start Inside: Yes, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” So why do so many strategic plans ignore the role of organizational culture? Building on the ‘how’ of deeply understood shared values, effective planning today starts with deep, internal engagement. Your internal teams’ engagement is essential to successful carry-through, and they’re the group most directly affected by your collective work. As a leader, your job is to make space for their inspiration, ideas, and commitment.

Be Clear on How Far You Can Reach: What’s the work your organization is uniquely capable of doing? For many leaders, this is a profound and liberating question, because it implies a strengths-based approach, and because it helps describe how you’ll distinguish yourself in a crowded world. Decide what outputs you’ll deliver, what outcomes you’ll aim to bring about, and to what you can really hold your organization accountable. Grand aspirations can be frustrating if we think they’re ours alone to achieve. Focus on what’s realistic, inspiring, and drives essential outcomes.

What’s the best work for you to do in service of your vision?

Build New Capabilities: Plans used to be like maps—a route to success, to be reached one objective or milestone at a time. As the world has accelerated, though, traditional planning has struggled to keep pace. Why follow a flat, static map in the age of GPS?! Most of your organization’s capacity and your colleagues’ time is already committed to developing and delivering the products and services you already deliver. This is your work ‘in your business.’ Your strategic plan should guide the work you’ll do ‘on your business’—making it stronger and more effective, so it’s better equipped to achieve your vision.

How does your culture inspire your momentum? What are the boundaries on your work—the guard rails that keep you focused on doing your best? What are the capabilities you need to build in order to thrive? In order to achieve your vision?

These are the questions you must ask and answer in your planning work….

And here’s one more…. What are you waiting for?

Plan your impact….

Let’s be audacious, together….

 

Mike Rowlands is President & CEO at Junxion. He’s been dubbed ‘the CEO Whisperer’ and ‘a Board unicorn’ by people who seem discerning about such things! Mostly, he’s just keen to support leaders and entrepreneurs who are committed to getting things done. Reach him via [email protected]

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