Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Planner's nightmare realized.

Planning is one of those things you love, or not.  For some it is painful, possibly because of an experience.I have done some thinking about this and here are some conclusions as to why this phenomenon is occurring so vehemently.

1. We use words that no one else would use in the real world.

Planner speak: "Honey, I have undertaken an initiative to achieve maximized revenue potential by offsetting our spending in key focus areas, such as footwear, automobile usage and entertainment. This is necessary given that our financial strength is at risk this quarter, and I fear our shareholder will require additional capital, thus impacting our long term goal of future sustainability."

People speak: "You cannot spend another dime on shoes, hauling kids around and hanging out with your friends because we are broke. The bank is taking our house so we are out on the street.

2. We think flow charts are good communication tools.

Planner speak:

Step 1 - develop an environmental scan.
Step 2 - document risks.
Step 3 - Assess risk.
Step 4 - Develop action plan.
Step 5 - Seek approval.
(Step 5A: Make adjustments based on feedback.
Step 6 - determine resource requirement.
Step 7 - seek approval.
Step 8 - Implement.
Step 9 - Feedback

People speak: What do we need to do? How much money do we need? How many people do we need?

3. We force them to do stuff they haven't done since grade school.

Planner speak: OK everyone, let's count off from 1 to 4:

Group 1 - you are talking about how we are going to achieve our employee satisfaction target of 80% in 5 years.

Group 2 - you are talking about how we are going to maintain our customer satisfaction rating of 85%.

Group 3 - you are talking about how to achieve our CSR Index of 85% by 2014.

Group 4 - you need to tell us how we are going to achieve our revenue targets by 2014 and ensure our expenses are in line."

People speak:

Group 1: Why should we care about employee satisfaction? Isn't it good enough that they have a job?

Group 2: "When do we go for a beer? OK, who is going to write this down. OK, so what do you think. Yea, I think so. That's good enough.

Group 3: Does anyone know what a CSR index means?

Group 4: We're expensive because you guys waste money. And we can't get our stuff done because you guys don't do what you are supposed to do.

All: OK. Who's presenting? (Tip: Pick the keener wanna-be planner with the smelly marker up his nose.)"

4. We think everyone cares.

Planner speak: "We will align the organization by ensuring each department plans includes the core measures of the balanced scorecard. Each measure will have supporting initiatives. (Pointing to the strategy map). At the end, we will document all the measures, targets and initiatives and be able to conclude that alignment is occurring and where gaps exist."

People speak: "blah, blah, blah. When is this over? If my boss can't figure this out, I am safe. Let's hope he cares less than I do. Oh, a text message. . . important business, gotta run."

So, here's the best I can offer for advice for those venturing into the next board room or full out planning process design:

1. Speak English. Use words you would use in a social environment. Use words they can spell and talk about with their friends.

2. Realize that your zeal is not shared. Kill the flow charts, flip charts, and smelly markers. They don't care. They just want to leave quickly. Set meetings for no more than 3 hours.

3. Make it entertaining. Kill the bossy facilitation style and resist the urge to be a grade school teacher unless you want them to throw spit balls. Give them the floor to talk about what matters the most and don't talk to too much during the meeting. Build in recreational activities and don't be afraid to sing and dance.

4. Make them look smart. After all the group work is done, take their ideas and turn them into a masterpiece that they will love and that makes them smart. The goal is to hear them say, "That's exactly what I meant to say. I get it."

5. Keep it simple. Do things once. Listen. Observe and don't expect them to do their job. If they wanted to plan, they would have done so by now.


Windnsnow said...

Good advice. You might consider taking this on the road.
You still need an intervention, I'm afraid.

And why do people hate planning. It is more primal than most would believe.

Chaos is a natural state of being. It finds its own order. Chaos inserts itself into difficult situations and creates solutions.
Most of all, chaos directed much of the play that we all engaged in before we stopped eating dirt.

Lynear Thinking said...

I think you are right. I love the chaos theory in fact it suits my non linear approach to being. The inherent problem with planning is it is required as part of a one year cycle, so it does not allow the natural order of chaos to occur, and therefore limits our ability to discover. At one organization that I worked it, it took about 3 years to get it into a cycle where it could be more discovery based and less cramped in with an annual budget process. But that organization I would say had a leader who allowed that to happen. It's all in the leadership of the organization. We are not miracle workers, but the process highlights inadequacies in leadership. The planner's job is to find the pulse of the company and its people, figure out who they are as decision makers, dreamers and reactors, and then allow for the right amount of boundaries. At the end of the day, I need to produce a plan. I can do that without including a lot of people. But having a fully engaged management team that embraces the future and consciously takes steps in that direction is my dream job. I have seen it and done it, so I know it's possible and within me.