Why Plan for Anything Else?

by Janice Giannini

With a deep mastering at the intersection of IT and business strategy, consultant, board adviser and former C-suite executive, Janice has been harnessing the true power of IT for more than 30 years. An Executive and Board-level digital strategist at the intersection of risk and IT, she enhances competitive position through vision and equity with large-scale risk identification, quantification and mitigation in an ever-changing marketplace, generating long-term value for clients. She engages with senior executives and teams, particularly in complex businesses where misalignment is blocking their desired success, to develop and execute practical business strategies and plans. Clients have found her especially helpful when they recognize they must integrate an eagle's eye and worm's eye view in order to identify and remove obstacles. Janice has consistently taken on those challenges that others chose to run from. This typically involves those challenging times when failure is not an option and integrating business, technology and people changes must be accomplished simultaneously. As a result, many of her clients are complex organizations who won't settle for anything less than developing widespread professional competence.

Medcitynews.com recently published an article on the current status of entrepreneurship gains and losses by state. Pennsylvania fell in the rankings from seventh in 2012 to 38th in 2013. A colleague shared her frustration at the situation, and I responded by saying, "Creating a growth environment requires several elements, all of which must be present: a winning attitude with unwavering commitment, planning, risk management, follow through on execution, and program discipline."

As I spoke, I realized that although the thoughts I expressed are obvious and straightforward to some, not all leaders think and act in this fashion on a consistent basis. In fact, leaders have four options for planning-plan to win, plan to fail, just a plan, or no plan.

Great business leaders consistently say that striving to do your very best is a fundamental requirement for success. Clearly, planning and then delivering are critical. But what kind of plan is required? The phrase "plan to win" refers to the key foundation block of a winning attitude with unwavering commitment. Plan to win means taking an idea and investing the time and mindshare necessary to achieve its successful implementation.

To plan to win, several fundamental questions must be answered:

  • What are you doing?
  • Why are you doing it?
  • What do you hope to achieve? (or will any outcome do?)
  • Who is invested in the outcome? How? Why?
  • What assumptions are you making?
  • How are these assumptions impacted (positively or negatively) by prior experience?
  • How do these assumptions translate to risk and reward?
  • What risk appetite can you sustain?
  • What is your personal expectation of how successful you will be?
  • What does the competitive landscape look like?
  • As you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard to develop your approach, what basic attitudes are you reinforcing in your plan?

So, how can you tell what type of plan you currently have?

  • No plan is apparent to most leaders and managers.
    • The company, team or group is flying by the seat of their pants, reacting as issues arise.
    • There is limited ability to get out in front and lead the way.
    • The outcome is the outcome.
    • If you're lucky, it works spectacularly well. Most times, that doesn't happen.
    • The team experiences frustration and loss of purpose due to failure.
    • There is a noted lack of commitment (because there really isn't a plan to commit to).
  • Just a plan can be deceptive.
    • It feel like a successful plan until uncoordinated or random events start to overtake and stall progress.
    • Many times, it leads to some of the unsatisfactory outcomes mentioned above in "no plan."
    • There is tentative commitment highlighted by the attitude, "Stuff happens, what can we do?"
  • Plan to fail can look similar to plan to win.
    • At first glance, it look like a coordinated plan that has some reserve capacity for random events. It's often referred to as the time-honored approach that has succeeded in the past.
    • When viewed more carefully, it shows lack of understanding of the challenges and insufficient thought leadership to succeed in the changing global market.
    • It highlights all the things that can go wrong without formulating a plan to address them.
    • There is tentative commitment. "We are doing the best we can as circumstances change."
  • Plan to win starts with an unwavering attitude that you will succeed.
    • It challenges all assumptions, including factual, attitudinal, industrial, old, and new.
    • It effectively integrates new technological and industrial trends.
    • It realistically assess the risk/reward equation and focuses on what needs to happen to achieve success.
    • There is full commitment from the team. "We will get there! There are some big challenges, but this is what we can do and are are doing, and we will continue to monitor and flex as we go forward." Is this complex? No question. In today's competitive global environment, success takes more understanding of the total opportunity and risk than ever. In large part, that's due to the number of market segments that are mature and overcrowded.

Where do you start the Plan to Win process? We believe it starts with a viewpoint:

  • Thinking and believing that you can do this, and you are successful.
  • Creating a horizon far beyond the day-to-day details.
  • Investing the time it takes to plan from beginning to end, which forces you to deal with complexities up front, so there are fewer surprises later on.

Regardless of whether you want to expand or contract your product lines, invent totally new products and services, or indulge in incremental innovation, the only way forward is to understand where you are and where you are going-and then plan to be successful.