Most “modern” business planning owes a debt to Frederick Winslow Taylor. Taylor believed that planning was separate from execution and that “superior” people planned, while others did the work.
Most of Taylor’s writing was about the factory. Many business planners seem to have that factory on the brain.
A factory is predictable. Oh, sure, there will be changeovers to deal with new products. There will be innovation in process. But the basic work remains essentially the same. Raw materials in, finished goods out. The goal was efficiency.
That worked for about a century. Taylor’s planning and thinking contributed to a huge improvement in the life of the average person. But a couple of decades ago, the world began to change.
Why the old planning model doesn’t work
Today’s world is less like the predictable and stable factory. It’s more like a trip through uncharted territory. Today’s planners have only the vaguest idea what might be over the next hill. Today you must be ready for anything. The goal should be agility.
Taylor-style planning assumes a predictable future and workers who follow orders. The goal is efficiency. Plan the Taylor way and you’re courting trouble. You could be ambushed by threats you didn’t know existed. Workers who expect autonomy will disengage from the plan you deliver from on high. You won’t be quick enough to seize pop-up opportunities.
Today you must plan for uncertain future and workers used to making decisions. The goal is agility. Here are three suggestions about how to plan differently.
Plan just enough.
Make sure the big objective is clear and people understand the basic strategy for getting to it. Don’t try to plan over a long time horizon. Don’t try to plan in much detail.
Put your trust in the front line.
As Major Donald Mitchell, USMC, said to me, “Those Generals may win a battle or two, but Sergeants win wars.” Trust people to make good decisions. Give them the resources so they can. Let them work.
Review the plan and your current situation frequently.
Make it a habit to keep your head up and in swivel mode. Scan the world, looking for things that may make you change your plan.
Most planning models today are based on a predictable future and workers who follow orders. The goal is efficiency.
Today, we have an uncertain future and workers used to making decisions. The goal should be agility.
Don’t plan too much or too far out and let everyone know the big picture.
Expect and equip frontline workers to make decisions about how to meet the big objective.
Review the world and your plan frequently and adjust as necessary