Most organisations have a strategic plan that spans over three to five years. Yet, if this is not translated into short- and medium-term goals, it becomes difficult or impossible to implement. Goals represent your organisation’s commitment to achieving your purpose and your targets within a specific time frame.
It is critical to establish clear goals that define what success looks like. Goals need to be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound.
When planning your goals, it is good to be aspirational, yet the best advice is not to be overambitious and to carefully assess what your organisation can or cannot achieve. Goals need to have a What and When but also a How. The How requires thorough planning and review to ensure your organisation has the necessary resources, capabilities, and business processes for the future.
The year 2020 has told us many lessons, particularly that things do not always go to plan and that organisations need to be flexible, adaptable – and prepared.
More than ever, organisations engage in establishing emergency response plans and business continuity planning to deal with major disruptions. However, small roadblocks can already prevent your organisation from achieving your goals. Unexpected events are part of our life and need to be considered when planning the How.
When planning your goals, you need to assess what resources, funding, business processes and capabilities, you will need to achieve the goals. Robust plans address uncertainty, develop contingencies, and mitigate risks
Planning is generally based on various assumptions. Our assumptions tend to be based on our previous experience and the information we have available at that time. Assumptions are made around the circumstances or factors we think will be true in the future. Yet, if they are wrong, they can derail our entire strategy. If things don’t go to plan, we get stuck as we did not plan for flexibility or plan B.
Recognising and documenting our assumptions are the first important steps to create better and more robust plans. When assessing our assumptions, we can develop new ideas and create some flexibility in case our assumptions were wrong or if we must derail from our original plan.
Let’s look at the different planning assumptions in more detail:
When planning our resources, we allocate the necessary people, materials, and facilities we need. If resources however become unavailable during the project the progress of achieving the goal can be heavily compromised. Also, if the contributions from resources are insufficient or if we identify that we in fact need more resources our work can be stalled.
Critically reviewing our resource planning and identifying our assumptions, will help to create some buffer and plan for contingencies.
At home, we all have an extra pack of pasta and toilet rolls in our cupboards, however does your organisation have additional resources and financial means to allow you deal with disruption or a crisis?
Many organisations that invested into IT equipment and supported staff to work from home managed to work through COVID 19 with less disruption. Experience has shown that organisations that deploy – or redeploy – resources when dealing with a crisis or threat are more likely to pull through. Deploying additional resources can enable organisations to continue after a crisis. Preparing for the unexpected can allow for flexibility and adaptation.
Every resource comes with a cost and cost predictions are an essential part of project planning. Developing realistic budgets helps to keep the project costs within the budget. Generally, we have a good idea on our internal costs such as staff salaries however staff turnover staff or staff absence can increase our costs overnight. External factors such as market demand, economic conditions or changes in regulations heavily impact on costs. Reviewing what could increase or decrease the cost of each of our resources can assist us to find alternative ways of doing our work or identify some cost savings.
It is critically important to monitor our financial cash reserves. Having sufficient reserves or liquid assets set aside to cover for unexpected costs can assist to overcome barriers along the way.
We tend to plan around our existing processes however new programs with more people involved may require some streamlining. This could be achieved with new technology. Technology resources do not only include hardware and software, but also IT support and time for trialling, testing, learning and adaptation. While this will increase the cost of any project, they could create savings in the long term. When planning our business process, we should always aim to do better and consider technological advancements. Any technology can be impacted by availability, suitability, and technical difficulties. Identifying what problems could occur will help prepare and mitigate the risks.
When planning for the future we easily overlook the skills and capabilities required to succeed. Key person risk arises if we rely too heavily on one or a handful of individuals whose skills are essential for our operations. Identifying the key individuals when planning can help us develop a succession plan. We could train additional staff members, allow the staff members to mentor less experienced staff or we could identify external talents that could assist. Documenting tasks can also help to manage key-person risk.
Time can be our worst enemy and we easily make false assumptions when planning timelines. Building contingencies can allow for more realistic timeframes. The availability of critical resources can impact on progress and any progress delay can increase costs overnight. Delays and lack of resources should be considered when planning and possible alternative options considered in advance.
To deliver your impact you need to establish realistic and achievable goals and plan for necessary resources, costs, business processes, capabilities, and timeframe. During the planning process you should review your assumptions as this can help you to recognise that some things may not go to plan or that any crisis could disrupt your operation. Regular review, discussion, and commitment to do better can help you to become more flexible in how you achieve your goals and get you prepared and more adaptable thanks to robust planning.