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The Planning and Execution Cycle - The Heartbeat of the Company

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[Note: This blog is for technology companies who have matured beyond the first phase of start-up chaos.]

From Scott S. Elliott and Kunio Hasebe - TechZecs, LLC Principals

Every excellent company has a systematic way of driving business planning and execution cycles. Usually, the time element of the planning process is controlled by a calendar. Most businesses have annual cycles dictated by required financial reporting, seasonal sales, etc. In addition, the business may have multi-year programs or initiatives. These time-cycles amount to a "heartbeat" rhythm that can be used to control and improve your business.

If you don't yet have a robust planning system, start by synchronizing your company’s planning and execution calendar with the timing of companywide business processes such as fiscal year reporting. For example, the annual planning and execution process starts on the first day of the fiscal year. Quarterly reviews of the plan and course adjustment activities are tied to end of each quarter. A companywide planning and execution calendar, well publicized within the organization, gives time for people to prepare data for planning and review activities. Asynchronous, event driven elements of the planning process are triggered by changes in external events impacting your company’s business focus. Ongoing continuous scanning of the external environment helps to prepare people for these event-driven planning activities. However, major unplanned events can seriously disrupt the rhythm and profitability of the business.

The first step in developing an effective planning and execution system is to recognize that it is a structured, disciplined process, and to identify a process owner. In many companies, the owner of the planning and execution process is the CEO, or someone on his/her direct staff. The message must be communicated to all value delivery system participants (key employees, contractors, suppliers, etc.) that there is a planning process, and how and where they fit into it. Like any other good process, it should be reviewed and improved constantly.

The process starts with the annual goals of the company, along with matching targets for each department (sales targets, expenses targets, production targets, new solution introductions, improved infrastructure, etc.) Many companies use a "tops-down, bottoms-up" approach (or vice versa), wherein initial goals and targets are set by top management and handed to the various departments. The departments then have a chance to modify the targets if they deem them not realistic, but top management must again balance the targets and resources in the end. If goals are not matched with realistic targets and budgets, they will likely not be met.

The process will include a timetable of milestones and deliverables that trigger people into action: collecting data, reviewing results, preparing reports and starting improvement actions. The assumptions used for the planning cycle should be visible and tested periodically. Long-term and short-term plans should be integrated into a master planning and execution process within the company and across the value delivery system.

The present and future needs of the end customers and the needs and capabilities of other participants in the value delivery system need to be brought into the planning process. For best results, a formal way to include the “voice of the customer” into plans and road-maps for products, services, process and process improvement is essential
The planning and execution process, if done robustly, will act as the "heartbeat" rhythm for your company. Like a biological heart, if the process is kept in good shape and consistently improved, it will supply the lifeblood and healthy growth of the company.H

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TechZecs, LLC
1730 Kearny Street,
Suite F-3
San Francisco,  California
94133 USA

Principal and Founder

Dr. Scott S. Elliott
Telephone: +1.415.830.5520

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