Planning…not plans.

So much chatter recently about the utility / futility of ‘plans’.  In our experience, the most effective operations in complex environments are always underpinned by detailed, collaborative planning with open and challenging discussion; ask any military veteran.  Plans (a document) are merely a summary with some guidelines, an allocation of resources, a ‘start point’ and are of limited value in and of themselves.

In our work to make companies more resilient we anchor our approach in this logic; the act of collaborative planning is more valuable than the production of ‘a plan’ (a document with a fixed course of action).  Understanding ‘how’ is essential, rather than just listing ‘what’ could / should be done.  So a tick box or templated approach to op resilience, continuity or crisis planning is a waste of time.  When it comes down to it, a document is meaningless without a sound approach to planning.  The 2020 Sunday Times Business Risk report also highlights the crucial importance of this approach in its discussion on Contingency Planning.  But, to be effective, the approach requires careful application.  Some tips for your consideration…

  • Use succinct and focussed engagement of key staff at all levels to determine what is critical and how important this is in delivering your goals.
  • Smash your silos.  Get real about your internal and external dependencies and the ‘golden threads’ that tie these things together.
  • Collaborate in focussed ‘what if’ discussions that centre on impacts rather than causes. Don’t shy away from hard realities or some out of the box thinking (see our article on Risk Scenarios)
  • Base all of this on a common set of rules to guide objective (non partisan) decisions to make the hard choices. Use lessons identified to help anchor planning.
  • Progress your planning to discuss in detail ‘how’ a realistic response will deliver your requirements. Focus on the art of the possible and remember that the response has only to be ‘good enough’ for your organisation, your context and your goals.  Perfection and delay are the enemies of the good.
  • Build crisis ready teams, people and processes that can use this planning to make sense of a given situation and take relevant, timely decisions. They will probably need to re-plan as the situation develops (see our previous thoughts on OODA on this…). Equip them better by involving them in planning.

Focus on the planning where every decision maker and implementer comes to understand the various components of the plan, how they fit together, their part and how actions might be flexed to meet the vagaries of a changing situation.  At the end of the day, good ‘plans’ are nothing more than sound thinking and effective implementation.  People and planning – not paper.