Those who have served in the military will know the 7 P’s of strategic planning as: ‘Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance’. However, it is unlikely that even the best laid plans will survive first contact with the enemy; who will not know the rules of the ‘game’ and will have plans of their own. This is why the military have a reputation for being able to react to change with both speed and scale. It is no different in a business environment.
Having a platform on which to start planning is important. Carrying out research into customer needs and expectations will help to formulate such a platform. What does the marketplace ‘look like’ at the present time? What are your competitors doing (or have done) to facilitate their positioning in the marketplace? How have you reacted to the constantly changing needs and expectations of the customer? How are you positioned in the marketplace? Are you in a position to create your future in these times of uncertainty, ambiguity and turbulence?
We are seeing so many organisations restructuring at the moment and our research has highlighted that many of them are doing no more than cost-cutting. As already mentioned in other articles; cost-cutting on its own is nothing more than a short-term solution to a long-term problem. It may help cashflow at the time but it does not improve the bottom-line unless it is combined with innovative changes that will attract the customer by producing a new ‘wow’ factor. During the current COVID crisis we have already seen so many changes in customer expectation, both in what they buy and in how they buy it, and such changes are likely to continue in the external environment. This means carrying out market research to gauge what the customer will require in the future that is not already being provided by yourselves or your competitors. Once you are aware of these needs you will be in a position to put together a business strategy.
Strategic planning is not just about the product or service. There is a need to look at areas such as organisational structure, strategies, capabilities and culture.
Structure – The structure of the organisation needs to be such that it will support the communication, collaboration and innovation required to create the desired change. What will the Value Chain look like and what inter-departmental interactions will be required in order to add value to the customer? Have you mapped these out?
Strategies – From a HR point of view this means looking at how people can be motivated to bring about major change – perhaps by being in a position for them to ‘own’ the change process. From a business point of view; the strategy required to move a business forward is likely to cover everything from product/service design to marketing and pricing.
Capabilities – What does the organisation need to be able to do in order to exceed customer expectation and provide that ‘wow’ factor? What capabilities will people need in order to innovate and create a new future for the business? What tacit knowledge (knowledge and skills picked up by people in the workplace – perhaps through observation, listening to others or passed down from colleagues or managers) is lurking within the organisation that may add value to the change process?
Culture – From a strategic planning and change management viewpoint there are a number of areas that need to be addressed when it comes to culture but defining the ‘right’ culture is not something that can be expressed as a ‘norm’. Every organisation is different. What is the purpose of the organisation (Mission, Vision, Strategy)? What are your core values (what do you stand for)? What is your Brand (market identity and customer promises)? The Culture will be the culmination of the answers to all of these questions (which describes organisational identity) made real to the employees. A major part of this involves the employee understanding of the Value Chain (working back from the customer) and the inter-departmental interactions that support it. It sets the ‘tone’ for the organisational behaviour that will be required in order to meet the expectations of all key stakeholders (including the customer) and to be able to react to changes in the marketplace with speed and scale. In short, culture connects external promises with the internal actions of the employees and consciously supports a market-orientated ecosystem through market research, innovation and agility; whilst ensuring that staff are aligned to enhancing the customer experience.
Not only has there has been an acceleration in the development and use of technology; there has also been a significant change to what people buy, why they buy it and how it is bought. There has also been a major shift in customer expectations, especially when it comes to value. If an organisation is to survive the current crisis then proper planning and preparation must include creating a new future for the business.
If your current position necessitates a need to make posts redundant, then you need to know what knowledge, skills and experience will be required to create and sustain that new future and to ensure that you are retaining the ‘right’ people. This means looking at the Structure, Strategies, Capabilities and Culture that will need to exist in the ‘new’ business and plan accordingly. Even if you are not looking at downsizing, the current period of uncertainty provides a prime opportunity to look at what the future holds. One thing is for sure, businesses cannot afford to ‘stand still’.
George Kemish is a consultant specialising in HR Strategy, Workforce Planning and Business Scenario Planning. Having started out as an apprentice in the engineering industry he moved into business administration where he held management posts in both HR and Financial Management from 1978 to 1993.
For the next 14 years George held a senior management position in the Education Sector with responsibility for Management & Financial Accounting; HR Management; Secretarial Services; Facilities Management; Events Management, Catering Management; Marketing; Public Relations; Management of Freedom of Information & Data Protection. As Secretary to the Board of Governors he was also responsible for: Advising on the interpretation of all legislation, regulations & best practice relating to corporate governance; committee administration; drafting of the annual corporate report (including year-end accounts); drafting of the business plan to support short, medium and long-term strategic planning.
In 2007 George moved to the Ministry of Defence where he was responsible for HR Strategy and Manpower Planning in respect of worldwide operations until 2016 when he founded his company; specialising in Business Planning from a HR perspective.