Planning is the process of detailed proposal for doing or achieving something.
Depending on the size and type of organization, there are several types of planning that may be engaged:
- Organizational Planning – such as strategic planning
- Financial Planning – such as cash flow, taxes, accounts receivables, capital structure
- Human Resources Planning – Management of the team you are forming in your company
- Operational Planning – to ensure continuity of quality service
- Program/ Project Planning – for temporary activities
- Disaster Recovery Planning – Significant or existential threats
Many of these types may start at the top levels of the organization, but their ability to have their goals achieved will be dependent on executions further down the organization with complementary planning and execution activities.
As part of the planning process, there is a need to determine how you are doing. There is a “rule” that “you cannot manage what you cannot measure”. This line has been attributed to W. Edwards Deming (developing statistical methods for Total Quality Management) and Peter Drucker (famous management consultant). Identifying metrics for the various activities assists in monitoring the progress of the various activities. Metrics do provide a means for developing dashboards for quick review and identifying acceptable ranges of operations. On the other hand, meaningful metrics over time may prove to be a challenge. One should also avoid the use of a metric that easily gamed, and thus provides little information as to your progress.
Organizational/ Strategic Planning
While each area of operation needs to do its own planning, there does need to be an overall plan established at the top of the organization. There is a need to identify a common direction, set a tone, establish priorities, allocate resources, and provide a basis for operational decision-making that can be done throughout the organization. Some important elements come from the “Golden Circle”. Using the “progressive” model, the emphasis is on the “Why” the organization exists. This is followed by the “How” and “What”. The “How” could include Values you want in your organization, focus to be placed (Customer Centered Focus?), general approach to the objective. The “What” is what you want to accomplish, your present day target, your mission. The results of this exercise also will provide some input into the Governance/ Culture discussed on this site. So…… what is needed in this plan?
Sections to be included in your Strategic Plan:
- Why? – Also called your Vision – Your reason for being
- How? – to include your Values – General approach and driving intent – e.g., Customer-Focused, Enabled Teams
- What? – Near term objectives
- Next Steps? – General Approach and potential assignments for the organization
- Metrics? – How do you know if you are making progress?
This topic is included because it needs to be. Money is the blood flow of the organization. But it is a topic that is beyond the scope of this site. The approach taken will be dependent on the size and type of organization. Major considerations are going to include:
- Cash flow
- Assets and liabilities
- Accounts Receivables
- Accounts Payable
- Human Resources expenses
Human Resources Planning
This area is beyond the scope of this site. The management and planning of Human Resources gets very complicated. Considering benefits, legal requirements, working conditions provides a many areas of management. The consideration of retention alone can make or break a company if trained personnel cannot be maintained. However, considerations might include:
- Position requirements
- Salary ranges
- Approaches for personnel review and development
- Training considerations
- Various benefits
- Working environments
- On-site and off-site work
- Hours of work
- Geographic locations
Operations are the ongoing day-to-day functions that need to run successfully and reliably. Failure to run on a timely and reliable basis may cause user dissatisfaction, employee dissatisfaction and management turmoil. When operations fail, customers do not have their connections, deliveries are not met, employees get frustrated. Management looses control. So what do you do?
Just to mention, there is a standard called ITIL that addresses this pretty thoroughly. It addresses all of the aspects of operations, but it is a framework, so you still need to fill in the pieces. However, there are steps you can take immediately:
- Do you have policies, processes and procedures? If not, start documenting them. It is difficult to maintain improvements if there are no established procedures. Everyone does their own thing. And maintaining quality becomes an issue. If your system is automated, this will help regulate the process, but often the system can also be compromised.
- Provide training – Training should include an understanding of the objectives of the operation, how the relative processes are performed and the reporting that supports the operation. It should also be considered an opportunity to provide alignment in the thinking and processes of the organization, providing more assurance for quality operstions.
- Track incidents. Even if you have to use a spreadsheet. This enables you to determine the time and regularity of issues. It allows you to identify related problems.
- Engage process improvement. Do not just fix an incident, determine its root cause. Identify related incidents. Identify why there is a failure and actively pursue changes in the process or system. Working incidents takes time and adds to costs. It reduces customer satisfaction and discourages employees.
- Set priorities. Not everything is of equal importance. Work the items that are accumulatively most time consuming, have the greatest customer impact, affect the organization the greatest.
- Identify and maintain metrics. How often do incidents occur. Is the frequency of total as well as individual incidents dropping? What are the frequency of incidents doing to cost and performance. This may cause management to realize an investment for correcting the issues might be worthwhile. Tracking performance provides insight into the operation. Consider developing a dashboard that provides a quick glance to progress or problems by management.
Program/ Project Planning
Programs/ projects are time bound processes. At least in theory, they have a beginning and end. Various activities are meant to be completed and implemented. At some point, they can go into maintenance mode or a continual process of improvement or extension. While an operation is monitored for its continual activity, the program or project is monitored for achieving its completion.
There are two main approaches to program/ project management. One is waterfall that expects a sequential and possibly overlapping set of steps. This is most useful for areas such as implementing infrastructure where one step must follow another. Generally to approach is to define the work, define the design and implement, in that sequence. The other is an agile approach where work is modularized, teams are small and work is broken up into iterations and sprints. Scaled Agile approaches exist to handle large projects and enterprise planning. This approach is useful for new program/ project development. It assumes you design only at the highest level, but leave the details to a just-in-time definition by the team. This allows for changes in the environment up to the last minute, which occurs regularly in longer projects. SAFe is a good example of a Scaled Agile Foundation.
General considerations in planning include:
- Identifying organization goals – laying out the objectives to be achieved in the various timeframes.
- Identifying the programs and projects – needed to achieve the goals.
- Identifying the priorities for resources – Not all projects can be completed at one time because of available resources, including funding and timeframes for completion. Fast value (lowest hanging fruit) may be a consideration for decision making.
- Determining timeframes for delivery – what is the expected delivery for what functionality. The concept of Minimal Viable Product should be considered. What is the least needed to provide a viable product. With limited resources and the need for quick delivery, this becomes an essential approach.
- Project teams build out project plans for delivery – While the agile process provides a lot of flexibility for modifying the schedule, there is still the need to provide capabilities in certain time periods.
- Define metrics – how do you know you are meeting your goals. Reports against project plans will be beneficial, but are you getting the information you need to know you will make your goals.
Disaster Recovery Planning
This planning is often overlooked. Mainly because the day-to-day operation is eating up all of your time. But what happens if your building burns down? What happens if your electricity or network goes out? What happens if you lose a key person? To some degree, the use of cloud has reduced some exposure. However, there are a lot of points of failure. What happens if?
There are disaster planning approaches. However, some critical considerations are:
- Identify your key operations – How long can they be down? What happens if they exceed that limit? What are the alternative measures that can be taken?
- Identify key personnel – How long can they be out? What happens if they are not there to do the function? Who can be trained in their place? Is there a service that can fill in?
- Identify financial exposures – For whatever reason, if cash flow is jeopardized, what are your alternatives? Do you know when you will be in trouble? What can you do to reduce operations until cash flow is resumed? What are alternative sources of funding?