Agile Thinking

Your Strategic Planning Should Be Agile, Too

Agile was borne out of desire to get away from the problems that plague waterfall development, and agile is now very successful. The problem is that strategic planning at the highest levels still often resembles something akin to waterfall planning. A multi-year plan is made up front based on research examined and discussions had by a choice few people, and then everyone hopes reality ultimately lines up with the plan. However, those hopes are often dashed fast. In an article for AgileConnection, Phil Gadzinski discusses how to get away from these problems by becoming agile in strategic planning.

Planning to Change Your Mind

Gadzinski shares an example from a company he is currently working with, where an executive conceded that “the need for [the] year’s major component of work actually arose three months after the completion of their annual planning process.” So in other words, none of their budgeting actually supports the business strategy that matters. It is not difficult to imagine that many businesses are running into such frustrations.

The challenge for businesses then is to imagine a strategy that is constantly malleable to allow worthwhile revisions. Toward that end, Gadzinski recommends applying aspects of design thinking to attempt to solve strategic planning challenges in a customer-centric way. He provides an example:

… a year ago I did some work with the strategy team of a major financial services organization. They used systems thinking to create a visual, quarterly road-mapping concept where strategy was constantly validated against initiatives funded to deliver on strategic goals. This actually was a fantastic process, and it was the biggest change portfolio I had seen visually represented. The clarity of the work in progress, the linkage to outcomes, and the ability to regularly revisit initiatives for continued alignment to goals and progress were invaluable. Added to this was the ability to avoid duplication—work was stopped when it was discovered, reducing waste and increasing the return on investment of the change slate. The organization began delivering more by doing less.

For strategic plans to be effective, businesses must be mindful of how several elements occur in their business, including the following: how plans stay timely, how to synchronize information flow throughout the business, and how to enable teams to pivot while maintaining “conceptual integrity.”

For further elaboration on these ideas, you can view the original article here:

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