Evaluating your basis question

Follow me for a minute…

People plan the way they’re used to planning. It’s like a habit. If the habit is effective, you probably look good. Your “style” of planning is based on some questions. They are like your default.

So what happens if you continue to have only marginal relevance with your customers and your annual planning/research process results in no major changes? You may just wonder why your discussions all sound the same, and why you never really generate the answers you need.

Change the basis questions of your planning.

When you talk about something, assumptions are being made. For some people, the basis question (never voiced) is “What should we do this year, as a continuation from what we did last year?” When you make an assumption like this, think about what is being excluded:

– Are we certain that where we’re going is relevant?
– How do we know that what we’re building (product) is relevant to consumers?
– Are we focusing on the right markets?

While it certainly isn’t appropriate to completely re-evaluate every aspect of your direction on an annual basis, it is appropriate to think about what the basis question for the planning session is. This is most appropriate where performance is less than you would like.

In many cases a good start is to take a few steps back.

Note: Good research will validate or challenge the assumptions you have made about your customers, markets, and direction.

Research: What does yours connect to?

Eventually, you’re going to end up doing some planning. While you’re doing that planning, you are probably going to run into some questions about your market. Hence: it’s time to find a research agency.

Question: What kind of research agency fits the bill?

Answer: One that makes a connection between your strategic direction and what they are going to supply you in terms of information outputs.

Too many companies incorporate ONLY general research and don’t go the extra step of doing research that is driven by their strategy. It is critical that your research is driven by the information needs of your strategy. By doing this, you validate WHERE you are going, HOW you’re planning to get there and WHAT you are doing today.

While general “find out what we don’t know” research can be useful, ensure that your ongoing research cycle is designed to reflect the decision points of your annual planning cycle.

Research without aim (connection to direction) is aimless research.

Balanced Scorecard: How is yours working?

If the balanced scorecard works, why doesn’t everyone experience the same positive results? While an estimated 65% of companies have embraced the tool, a much lower number have experienced significant benefits. Many companies wonder whether it’s really as good as they’ve heard. It’s probably for the same reason that most companies failed to execute their strategies prior to implementing the scorecard.

The question we need to be asking is “How effectively was the scorecard implemented?”

If you’re looking for some ideas on why you’re not seeing the results you need, ask yourself these questions:

– Does every person in the company understand the direction, and how they contribute to it?
– What level of support does your CEO and executive give?
– Do you use the scorecard to cascade executive direction to teams and individuals?
– Is your strategic planning cycle ongoing and integrated with other functions within the company (ERM, Research)?
– Is strategy an ongoing conversation in your company, do you plan through the scorecard?
– Do you manage through your scorecard? Is it the framework for your reporting?

Balanced scorecarding, as with strategy, is all about people. If people don’t understand the strategy, they can’t execute it. Once you have created the direction at the board level and executive levels, the work begins with creating clarity within your work force and then building alignment to the direction.