Saturday, 26 January 2013

Why Plan is difficult to implement and often fail?


Planning, some say, is a way to make God laugh. More often than not, plans go astray. Strategic plans, begun with great excitement and created with satisfaction, often gather dust in the CEO's office within a few months. Michael Hammer, guru of the organizational reengineering movement of the early 1990s, estimates that more than 70 percent of reengineering plans failed. Top executives report that most total quality management (TQM) efforts of the 1980s failed to produce organizational value. Recent studies revealed that projected benefits from business mergers failed to materialize in 85 percent of the cases. These statistics come from businesses that hired the world's experts in change management, invested hundreds of thousands of dollars, per month, in change processes.

I bet that every human being in the Malaysia believes in the value of planning. More management and personal development books have been written about goal setting and strategic planning that any other topic.

Planning is often evaluated on the elegance of the decision. What really counts, of course, is the follow through—the implementation. The quality of implementation relates to how the plan was created. Not considering planning methods early in the planning process sows the seeds of failure of the decisions in the implementation. Well-implemented plans achieve the desired results, efficiently, on time, and with few unintended side effects. The secret of good implementation is simple. Implementation requires commitment from all needed to carry it out.

We can all think of poor planning that achieved stupendous results. Why? People were committed to the desired results. If the plan is inadequate, committed people learn from that, make corrections, and achieve. When people are not committed, they watch your beautiful plan slowly veer off course, and when it crashes, they may secretly smile.

Including the doers early in the planning is more critical than having the deciders create a well-designed plan. The doers ideas must be articulated, accommodated, and integrated during the design of the plan. Postponing inclusion until the plan is finalized means selling it to the stakeholders, not accommodating those who will ultimately make it work.

If the deciders listen to the doers after the plan is written, the plan will require accommodation to their concerns and new ideas. Finding the willingness to change the plan after the binders have been embossed is like expecting an architect to accommodate the carpenter's suggestion. The doers, excluded from real participation in the plan's design, expect their ideas will be discounted, and they acquiesce. Deciders misinterpret this acquiescence as agreement and support. Then when the plan does not work well, the doers get blamed for lack of follow through.

The Reasons Plans Fail

Over the last twenty five years I have facilitated the creation of several hundred plan. I have had the opportunity to watch these plans over time and see how they got off course. In many cases when I was still involved, we could steer back on course.

I have summarized all these planning failures plus those of hundreds of other businesses whose planning failures ended up in the news. As you read the twelve reasons for failed plans, evaluate your company's planning effort using the set of questions at the end of the article.

1.     Lack of clear final outcomes (mission & vision)
Research supports what leaders have known for centuries: a strong mission and vision contributes to success. Mission and vision embraces values that never change in the service of a long-range purpose. Vision serves to inspire commitment and focus action. As the company achieves shorter-term goals, new ones are formulated in response to unchanging values and stable purpose.

Values and purpose, not projects or campaigns, drive the company to success over the long run. For instance, a major renovation can inspire and focus the organization, but only for a few years. When the new building opens, the company will begin to drift unless sufficient agreement on the mission and values carry beyond opening night.

2.     Lack of Information
Plans often fail because we base them on incomplete information. The information usually missing from the plan is external to the company and includes:

o    market size

o    strength of the market's need for the company's products and services

o    clarity on the market's willingness to pay the company's price in dollars, time and accessibility

o    impact of competitors, especially indirect ones, who fill the same market need with a different time or service such as running, bicycling or hiking

o    analysis of perceived value of the club's facilities, and services by the market

This type of information is available for the asking through market research and feasibility studies, which can elicit this data through well-crafted, efficient questions.

3.     Lack of Inclusion
Information may be missing from inside the club, too. The leaders may exclude professional, technical, administrative, and support employee from the planning process. Plans in companies are frequently drawn without including ideas from the front line employees especially part timers.

These failures of inclusion occur because leaders believe:

o    They have little to contribute.

o    We cannot involve too many people.

o    We don't want to involve them until we have a better idea of where we are going.

o    There would be too much disagreement.

o    It's too hard for them to deal with these issues.

o    It will take too much time.

These beliefs limit inclusion. Fortunately, effective processes, structures, and facilitators exist for including people successfully—even many people. For the leaders, inclusion means listening and understanding, not abdicating authority to set the final course. Sequential inclusion does not build sufficient commitment to planning. The power of planning comes from simultaneous inclusion.

When every you use the phrase 'get their buy in', you've probably failed to include key people soon enough.

4.     Lack of Strategy
Most strategic plans lack strategy. What's needed is strategic thinking, not strategic planning. Strategic plans consist of long lists of goals, objectives, tasks, and actions. Powerful strategy fits on a page or two. Plans fill pages and binders. The purpose of strategy is to define the organization in a unique niche. When this is not done, the organization competes for resources and customers with other, similar organizations. Most organizations have plans; very, very few have strategies.

5.     Participation as an End
Involving lots of people because you believe in participation may create a hodgepodge plan. You pass the basket and everyone contributes. Inconsistent, contradictory, and ill-conceived ideas accumulate and get packaged into the plan. These plans have high agreement but little focus and require unrealistic resources. The management fads for participative "visioning" and development of mission statements have largely resulted in useless, unused documents.

The solution? Include people in a way that respects and builds on their needs and has focus and direction. This process requires synthesis of needs and perspectives to create new ideas. The process often transforms the people involved, too, and creates agreement on a future for the company. You will also have to engage in difficult conversations and even conflicts in order to synthesize all the input into a powerful and focused strategy.

6.     Lack of Productive Conflict
People included in the planning process will have different perspectives and concerns. These differences have value. If the differences remain hidden and unexplored, they can be destructive. For example, if the need for job security is not addressed, individuals may be unable to concentrate on changing the company's structure. The planning climate must constantly encourage honest, complete input. When participants strive to learn from conflict, synthesis can occur and can generate new and more powerful ideas for resolving differences. Most planning will engage in conflict more productively if they engage a skilled facilitator.

7.     Untested Assumptions
Invariably, planners use information, make decisions, and draft plans without challenging deeply held, underlying assumptions that supports favorite positions. Our universal desire to feel good and be nice works against honest exploration of differing ideas. A skilled facilitator can help the planners explore assumptions typical to company such as:

o    The public needs what we have.

o    We'll build it and they will come.

o    We have always been pretty successful in the past.

o    The Titanic is unsinkable.

Identifying, testing, and challenging assumptions critical to your plan will allow it to stand on solid ground. For implementation success, assumptions must be regularly monitored as well. Plans often fail because assumptions change while the plan remains. For example, members really want a club with lots of staff on the floor.

8.     Lack of Communication and Accommodation
People need to know about your plans. Employees and members may feel marginalized when they are the last to hear about a significant change. They may wonder: Why the secrecy? I feel stupid not knowing!

Every stakeholder can't be included in the planning process, but communications can go to everyone. Face-to-face communication is by far the most effective medium known to human kind, but videos, memos, newsletters, and telephones, and email all help. Your responsibility is to send the communication and to engage in sufficient dialogue to ensure understanding that will build energy and commitment.

Often, by the time planners communicate their effort, they psychologically etch it in stone. Their task is finished. Done. Completed. Not open to change. When they begin to share the plan, on some level, they're thinking: 'We created it. We're proud of it. Thank God the labor's over. Don't criticize our newborn plan!' This natural and unconscious attitude usually blocks dialogue and engagement with others. The plan is an announcement not communication—which is two way speaking and listening.

Communicating the plan usually surfaces questions, disagreements, and doubts. Planners ignore or discard these at the plan's peril. Each discard reduces energy and commitment. Some best-known failures of top-down, central planning can be seen in the breakup of the former Soviet Union, of IBM, and the World Bank's attempts to help developing countries. Exploring and accommodating feedback may mean modifications, typically in how rather than what gets done. If accommodation is not made, planners lose the opportunity to build commitment and may secure only compliance from those responsible for implementing the plan. If you end "being right," the plan stands, unchanged, but energy for implementation may be low.

9.     Lack of Strategic Alignment
Plans by themselves lack sufficient power to guide an organization, particularly if change is required. Like a supertanker, organizations have extraordinary momentum to keep on the old course. Even if the captain spins the wheel to a new direction, the autopilots deep in the bowels of the ship will correct to the old course unless they, too, are reset.

Companies have at least seven autopilots: strategy, culture, structure, systems, resource allocation, employing, and rewards and recognition. If the plan requires change, the autopilots require alignment with the new direction. This means creating a strategic culture, a strategic structure, and so forth, aligned with new strategies.

10.  Lack of Strategic Focus
Most planning efforts create pages of new things to do. When these are layered on already full work loads and over committed resources, it means everything gets spread thinner. Everything gets done a little less.

Setting strategy means making the tough decisions on what not to do.

Invariably these decisions are tough for two reasons. First, each and every activity has advocates. Second, each and every activity has a good argument for pursuit.

Setting strategy means making the tough decisions on what not to do.

When planners shy from tough decisions, strategy is undermined. A plan is not strategic unless it spells out what the organization will stop doing. A slow, ongoing accumulation of priorities accelerates aging and bureaucratization.

11.  Plans not finalized
Finalizing a plan consists of breaking the plan down into reasonable sized tasks which define the results to be achieved, by what date, and by designating a champion responsible and accountable for the results.

Many tasks require a team effort. Assigning accountability to a team only works when the team is functioning at a level high enough that each team member accepts 100 percent of the responsibility for the result. Too often, team assignments mean that no one takes the responsibility. If effective team work is not the cultural norm within the organization, one person should have the responsibility for the results.

Each element of the plan requires the details of: what results, by whom, by when, and with what resources. Without these, the plan is only a wish.

Unfinalized plans drift because employees work away as they always have. Effectively assigning strategic tasks often means changing some job descriptions and reallocating resources.

Each element of the plan requires the details of: what results, by whom, by when, and with what resources. Without these, the plan is only a wish.

12.  Specifying Results, not Activities
Many plans specify activities such as: improve coordination between x and y or launch a training program for front desk staff. These imply that coordination and training are the purpose of the organization. More likely, the need is to improve coordination to reduce duplication of work or to train to improve customer service.

Not spelling out the results can mean that you get better coordination, without a reduction in duplicated services. If the goal is better customer service, be sure to spell that out and hold people accountable for this result, not for setting up a training program. Not specifying the result is the precursor of irresponsible behavior.

Improving Your Planning Process

If the twelve reasons Why Plans Fail make sense to you, you have the raw data to redesign and improve your planning and decision-making process. The brief survey below enables you to assess how significant each of the twelve reasons is for your club's planning. A sum of thirty-five or higher for either Questions A or Questions B indicates that you can significantly improve your planning process.

If this article has failed to describe Why Plans Fail you may improve your planning process by rigorously analyzing why your past plans and decisions have not been well implemented. Create your own list of reasons Why Plans Fail to improve your planning process.

Evaluation Questions

Strongly Agree = 5 Agree = 4 Unsure = 3 Disagree = 2 Strongly Disagree =1

1A. This reason for why plans fail makes sense to me

1B. This reason contributed to the success or failure of my company's plan

2A. This reason for why plans fail makes sense to me

2B. This reason contributed to the failure of my company's plan

3A. This reason for why plans fail makes sense to me

3B. This reason contributed to the failure of my company's plan

4A. This reason for why plans fail makes sense to me

4B. This reason contributed to the failure of my company's plan

5A. This reason for why plans fail makes sense to me

5B. This reason contributed to the failure of my company's plan

6A. This reason for why plans fail makes sense to me

6B. This reason contributed to the failure of my company's plan

7A. This reason for why plans fail makes sense to me

7B. This reason contributed to the failure of my company's plan

8A. This reason for why plans fail makes sense to me

8B. This reason contributed to the failure of my company's plan

9A. This reason for why plans fail makes sense to me

9B. This reason contributed to the failure of my company's plan

10A. This reason for why plans fail makes sense to me

10B. This reason contributed to the failure of my company's plan

11A. This reason for why plans fail makes sense to me

11B. This reason contributed to the failure of my company's plan

12A. This reason for why plans fail makes sense to me

12B. This reason contributed to the failure of my company's plan


37 reasons why strategic plans fail (V 3.0)

I've started to write an article on why strategic planning fails and started to informally poll my clients to get their are some of the common reasons noted.

Please help me expand my list to 50. The first Contributors of any new idea or reason will be credited in my article. Add your experiences and reasons in the Comments section below

A big Thank you to Blog Readers in advance

Walter Derzko

37 reasons why strategic plans fail (V 3.0)

1) overemphasis on strategic planning and under -emphasis on implementation

2) internal focus vs balanced external /internal focus

3) focus on mechanical and rational strategic planning & goal-setting vs strategic thinking (the overt emphasis on the lateral cognitive skills and operations to generate new ideas and concepts around tactics and strategy)

4) straight-line forecasts vs scenarios

5) clarity between certainty vs uncertainty…we are certain about this ? we are uncertain about that

6) challenging assumptions ; what do we take for granted (WDWTFG) about ?

7) fear of or ignorance of how to surface our personal and often tacit world views (key concepts), mindsets (assumptions, norms and values ), mental maps (the landscape) and models (social networks, interactions & relationships)

8) challenging “what works”

9) ignoring changing circumstances and time scales

10) ignoring 2ndary and 3 Impacts & Consequences of events, tactics and strategies

11) ignoring dissenting opinions

12) dismissing outlying nonconforming information (problem of scope and definitions)

13) ignoring ambiguity ( lack of any framework),

14) mishandling uncertainty ( lack of data or even which questions to ask to find the information),

15) not knowing how to handle complexity (too many interrelated components or events to manage or understand the specific
workings of the system in focus i.e. our body)

16) difficulty with equivocality ( multiple interpretations of same events or data).

17) Poor sense-making , sense-modeling and sense-portraying (Sense-making occurs when we consciously or unconsciously compare new
knowledge with our existing mindset-assumptions, norms and values and see what's changed, challenged, dismissed or reinforced ( usually a process that shifts back and forth from tacit to explicit knowledge creation).

18) Not thinking in system terms, do we actually have a Viable system? What’s the big picture?

19) Ignoring the metrics that measure the results; what’s considered good, mediocre or poor performance

20) Not building in flexibility and adaptability into your strategic plans, ie if circumstance or condition A changes, then we go with Tactic B

[ ... ]

36) Urgent vs important; deflected from the task by the supposed urgent issues of the day

37) poor communications

Now please add your comments below in the Comments Section