At this stage of the financial year, the thought of planning the financial year ahead has probably crossed your mind. If your organisation has a formal planning process that is in place for the start of every calendar year, you may have started planning already.
Before we go into planning mode, or agonise about the mere thought of doing any sort of planning, is planning ahead even useful? Is it just a waste of time?
Below are three reasons that planning is not a waste of time, but a valuable exercise.
Opportunity to be proactive
In today’s connected world we are constantly being pulled in a million and one different directions. We receive endless updates about legal changes and Government funding; our clients have many different means to contact us and, of course, staff members have varying and changing needs to be addressed. All this to say, that in the middle of the working year, it is very easy, and at times difficult not to be, operating in a reactive state. This can be especially true of leaders of organisations.
The planning process however provides us the opportunity to be proactive. When beginning the planning process, particularly planning for longer periods such as a year or two rather than a week or two, our minds move towards exploratory, opportunistic type questions such as ‘what do we want to achieve’, rather than reactive type questions such as ‘what needs to be done’. After all, if you ask somebody what they plan to do in the next 12 months you may get a proactive response such as ‘achieve xyz’, whereas if you ask them what they plan to do in the next week you may get a more responsive type answer, such as ‘finalise our client report’, which is due the following week.
Planning allows us for a brief moment to put the day to day tasks, that form part of our lives, to one side and ask ourselves a handful of longer term, more meaningful questions.
Revisit what’s important
What is important to your organisation? Why does your organisation exist? What problems are being solved and what needs are being addressed?
These are the type of questions that are able to be asked in the planning process, when the day to day tasks are momentarily put on hold. These types of questions, with the big picture in mind, allow you to revisit what’s important to both you and the organisation.
When revisiting what’s important, there are two timelines in which we must consider. What is currently being done and what needs to be done.
When reviewing what is currently being done, consider the day to day tasks that are being undertaken, but that you feel do not necessarily align with the organisation vision and/or are not the most efficient use of resources. Tasks may include pursuing and completing work that at one time was in line with your organisation’s mission, but overtime has changed and is no longer as aligned as it once was. Other examples may include an inefficient use of employees’ time or archaic systems that unnecessarily waste time.
Are you happy with the current state of play? Are there things you would change in your own work and that of your organisation?
In looking to the future, questions can be asked about the type of organisation you want to be and what you’d like the organisation to achieve. This an opportunity for aspirational thoughts to flourish. It is difficult, if not impossible, for the mind to wonder and for you to imagine what your organisation could achieve, and the impact it could have, when you are in the middle of your day to day activities. Planning allows you to take a longer term horizon. The practical consequences are that you can plan actions for the year ahead, that lay the foundations for your longer term goals.
Planning has the potential to improve an organisation’s performance by providing an opportunity to focus on how best to allocate resources, how to solve key problems and by bringing improved focus and efficiencies to staff and leaders.
Allocation of resources
With the opportunity to be proactive and revisit what’s important, an organisation is able to review where resources are being allocated and determine if this is the most efficient use of the resource/s in light of what’s important. All organisations have limited resources, particularly in terms of time and money. Even slight reallocations of key resources can impact overall organisational performance.
Solve key problems
Without planning, you risk just doing more of what you’ve always done, without regard to external market context, or internal changes. As market conditions evolve and internal changes occur, problems are likely to arise. Planning provides the opportunity for key personnel to work through and solve problems affecting the performance of the organisation.
Improved focus and efficiencies
Planning allows for a strategic roadmap to be created in which staff and leaders can align to. With an aligned focus on tasks and functional activities, efficiencies are inevitably gained. Furthermore, leaders who are equipped with a strategic roadmap and direction for the organisation are able to make better, more informed decisions in a more efficient manner.