Planning Forward

This is the time of the year when we start the age-old planning cycle for the quickly approaching new year.  This has become so automatic that the planning process runs us, versus us running the planning process.  Planning was invented to develop a road map for organizations — how else can we align the interests and actions of customers, our employees, our stakeholders and our bottom lines. And the new economic normal in which we are now living demands that we rethink our planning process. Planning comes in as many flavors as Ben & Jerry’s has ice cream.  And then of course there are all the light versions of those ice creams.  Whatever flavor you pick is fine, as long as you are planning for the future.   As long as you are taking control of the planning process and looking for breakthroughs into the future.    Whatever process you used in the past for planning should be trashed.  The new economy demands a new planning model.

There is no new text book, self-help book, or planning guide that has been created for the new normal planning model.  We are in the process of inventing the model.  And this is an opportunity for all organizations.  Today’s economic climate is dealing with rapid and massive changes, and our tendency is to resist the change, buckle down and do the same thing over and over again.  Our planning process needs to head directly into those strong headwinds.  Our planning goals need to be game-changing opportunities for our organizations.

In the past 24 months we have seen major brands disappear (Saturn, Lehman Brothers) while we have seen explosive new brands come into the marketplace (Twitter, Foursquare, Kindle). Where do you want to see your company in the next 24 months?

One opportunity to get your organization out of the traditional box of planning is through thinking “collaboratively”.  It is not good enough anymore to just understand your customer needs and competitive marketplace and them turn inward to see how you can meet those needs and do it profitably.   Today you need to do those standard things and then stretch beyond the traditional.  You need to be thinking both about what is and what might be, and be ready to invest more in what might be than what is.  Collaborative Planning changes the way we have done our planning.  It can provide broader and deeper possibilities.

Collaborative Planning is an opportunity to instill more drive, creativity and innovation in your people.  It will have a push power inside your organization that can lead to effective change.  Collaborative Planning can be tackled incrementally — this year make sure you open planning to technology people in your organization, or invite some outside technology consultant to join your planning process.  Or you could think bigger and open up your planning to groups inside and outside your organization — think Wikiplanning.  The important point is to break through your traditional planning cycle.  Add some new energy, some new people, and build a company toward what might be.