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The Discipline of Planning and Alignment – Do you Have It?

Planning is a critical business discipline that bridges future goals and aspirations with current reality. But it takes focus and skill to get everyone in the organisation aligned…

Business planning is a core activity in most organisations. It helps bridge the future vision and goals with the current situation. But it’s not just the planning process that requires discipline and competence, but the practice of implementing the projects also – in a way that maintains flexibility, being responsive to emerging trends and engaging everyone in the organisation. Alignment is critical to success – but difficult to achieve. This is what it looks like:

1. Every employee and team member knows how their own role contributes to the ‘greater good’ and core purpose of the organisation

2. Every employee and team member knows, at least at a high level, what the ‘critical path’ to achieving the end vision looks like – i.e. The initiatives, programmes and projects that are underway. If it’s a large corporate business, then this should be true of the business unit within which they work.

3. Project managers focus as much on the impact of change on various aspects of the business (systems, process, behaviour) as they do on completing the project on time, to budget etc.

4. The senior leadership team review the high level plans on a regular basis to ensure that no conflict exists between deadlines and priorities.

5. As plans are developed and projects implemented, the right people are consulted at the right time, and the right people are informed when they need to be. This is done with respect for day-to-day workload considerations, and with enough advance notice that there is no adverse impact on ‘business as usual’ activity.

Planning is a necessary part of business management, and no leader would be expected to run a business or function without an element of planning. It helps structure thinking, communicate expectations and requirements of others, and it facilitates the reporting of progress towards the end goal. But planning is a tool, a means to an end rather than the end in itself. An enlightened leader isn’t a slave to the plan; it is a living document which needs to remain fluid and responsive to changing conditions and emerging opportunities. Business priorities change, and as they do you need to make sure you keep the organisation aligned as it maintains focus in some areas, and shifts in others.

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