27 June 2015

Strategic Planning Process

As the saying goes, If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail

Through my working life, I have often been amused by the lack of planning in some organisations (both big and small), and yet these companies continue to be operating .. thought I'm not certain at what cost, and for how long more.

On the other far end of the spectrum, there are the companies who spent so much time planning, and then struggling to make 101 changes to their plans. By the time those plans are finalized, they are mid-way through executing their plan! And at times the daily operational effectiveness are sacrificed.. and I wonder if they had lost the essence of the planning.

The following is my simplified explanation of a strategic planning process.

Essentially, planning to me is to create a roadmap to your goal.

Let me illustrate this in an example.


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I want to get to Orchard Road (our famous shopping district in Singapore).

Based on experience and possibly some research at Google Maps or www.gothere.sg, I would mentally evaluate the few ways to get there from my current location:

  • Walk - why not?
    I had once walked from Bras Basah to Chinatown in less than 30 minutes
  • Taxi - maybe.
    But the cost is pricier than other forms of public transport. Moreover it may not be easy to flagged down a taxi during the weekends.
  • Bus - more likely.
    I have a choice of bus services. The cost is probably the cheapest. But the service can be unreliable due to traffic conditions. And it is the slowest mode of public transportation.
  • Subway/MRT/train - most possibly.
    While it is likely costlier than taking a bus, the MRT service is more predictable in arrival times. 

I don't drive, so no driving in the example :)

Other than the transportation mode, I would also consider some other things:

  • How much am I willing to pay to get from my home to Orchard Road?
  • Which part of Orchard Road do I need to be at? 
  • What time do I need to be at Orchard Road?
  • What is the weather like?
    If it's raining, I'm likely to take the subway to avoid traffic jams and there is likely a shortage of available taxis. And yeah, I'll grab an umbrella before I leave the house.
  • Would I be meeting a friend later?
    If I'm meeting my friend for a movie in an hour's time, I would want to be punctual. If I'm meeting my friend for dinner and she's always late, I know I will take my own sweet time to get there. 
  • What am I going to be doing at Orchard Road?
    If I'm going to be shopping and on my feet the whole day, I wouldn't want to walk to Orchard Road. Conserve my energy for shopping.
Ok, I've decided to take the MRT. I leave my home and start my short walk to the MRT station.

Then when I reach the MRT station, oh great - there is an announcement that the services has broken down.

I would then consider my next best alternative route to get to my destination.

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From the example above, I hope you can relate to planning for your workplace/business/home/etc - e.g. sales target, headcount numbers, attrition rate, etc

Firstly, determine your goal - where you want to be

I was taught to make S.M.A.R.T. goals - the goals have to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.

In my example above, I start asking myself questions to further fine-tune my goal.

Other than knowing I need to get to Orchard Road, I need to know what time I have to be there, and which exact part of Orchard Road I need to be at. If I'm meeting my friend at Plaza Sing, I would want to stop at Dhoby Ghaut MRT station, and not Somerset or Orchard MRT stations.

And I know how I want to be when I get there - punctual or "equally late" to meet my friend, definitely not smelling badly to meet my friend, not tired because we will be going shopping


Secondly, state your current situation - where am I know

Examine your present situation/condition.

Where are you now? How far are you from your goal? How far are you willing to go?

And sometimes you can add - How do you feel now? Would getting there make you feel better/happier? This emotional aspect gives you a bigger WHY - why you need to get there

Relating back to the example, I know I am at home, about 20 minutes' drive to Orchard Road on a day with good traffic conditions and fine sunny weather. I am currently resting comfortably at home, but I know I will feel 10 times better when I meet my friend physically to catch up (not online chatting!), go shopping, and have a meal together


Thirdly, consider possible strategies - how to go there

List all ways to help you to your destination - no matter how unsound they may be.

Then evaluate and strike out those that are not as feasible. In the example above, I would probably strike out walking to Orchard Road.

After which, rank the remaining strategies - e.g. in terms of order, my preference would be MRT, followed by bus, then lastly taxi.


Next, implement your plan - go out now

There is no point of having a plan if everything remains on paper and never gets implemented. Why give yourself more work when you already have so much work to do? (If you are very bored, please get a hobby or adopt a pet to love. And if you are in Singapore and would love to adopt a hamster, contact me at Google+)


Lastly, monitor your plan - change strategy or even adjust the goal when necessary

In real life, there is no perfect situation. No plans are straight lines. There are bound to be hiccups. The ones implementing the plans are humans - and humans make mistakes - and the 'superior' humans learn from mistakes. We need to allow for some flexibility in our plans, to consider the next best alternative

Sometimes it may involve a change in your strategy. For example, the MRT services broke down. I would have to consider other forms of public transportation.

And sometimes it may even involve adjusting the goal. For example, there is a celebrity event at Plaza Sing and many fans are gathering there. This actually happened to me once - I went to Plaza Sing Daiso to get some stuff, and then saw a crazy multitude of screaming teenagers. Then I realized there was a stage setup at Level 1 and many people stopped in their tracks to watch. Till today, I had no idea who those celebrities are, and I could only recall being annoyed. - So when this happens, it is likely my friend and I will consider meeting at another shopping centre along Orchard Road. i.e. adjust our goal


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I hope you have learnt something from my simple scenario above. If you have any comments, feedback or questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. As much as I would share my observations and learnings, I would love to learn from you too