Roy's Blog: November 2009

November 24, 2009

Planning is the enemy of good execution

We spend far too much time planning what we intend to do as an organization and not enough time figuring out how we will get there.

The challenge is expressed a number of ways but I think Peter Drucker nailed it when he said “The biggest challenge for most businesses is executing well - not devising helium-filled plans for reaching the next level.”

How true. But this has been said over and over forever it seems yet organizations toil on believing the essence of their strategy will “deliver them from evil”.

The fact is it won’t, and unless execution gets recognition as the true driver of success we will continue to witness the demise of businesses.

Results are a function of execution and that requires a disproportionate amount of time be spent on this element of the strategic planning process.
Spend 20% of your time to determining the essence of your plan and 80% of your time on the detailed implementation plan - who needs to do what by when to breathe life into what you want to achieve.

Sooner or later your brave idea must degenerate into a number of crude deeds. Make it a cultural change objective.

Assign a Strategy Hawk to lead the execution process. Select the most senior person with the most tenacity and currency in your organization to do the job. Make it the most important item in his or her performance plan and hold them accountable to deliver the results expected.

And communicate openly and regularly on progress made. execution heroes - find them and recognize them. Hold them up to the rest of the organization as examples to be aspired to.

Get your plan “just about right” and execute it with tenacity and perseverance through the hearts and souls of turned-on people.

That’s winning.

That’s change leadership.


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  • Posted 11.24.09 at 10:47 am by Roy Osing
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November 14, 2009

Should your plan really have 2 faces to it?

Most organizations look at their strategy document as a description of their desired future.

It is the culmination of hours of excruciating work that has tested a number of alternative courses of action and has landed on one that is believed to deliver the maximum benefit.

Indeed the strategy document does perform this valuable role. It communicates to one and all (although I have seen instances where the strategy is held in confidence on a need-to- know basis for fear that its unintentional release would cause irreparable harm to the company) where you are going and the activities necessary to get you there.

From this perspective it is an essential tool in the internal communications plan to ensure all employees are on board.


But I think there is a more vital role that the strategy document plays - to record the things we learn in the course of executing the strategy.

It’s one thing to declare the direction we intend to take. It’s quite another to witness the extent to which we conform to our grand intentions in the market with real customers and real competitors.

I believe in planning on the run, the notion that you set your direction and you adjust it based on the learning you get from executing it.

The plan never turns out the way you imagined; there are too many random market variables impacting us that get in the way.

That said, the strategy document must be viewed as a destination for depositing everything that we have learned during the arduous execution process. What worked? What didn’t? Why? What is the variance diagnosis? You need to record your experiences just like you would journalize what’s going on in your personal life.

Documented experiences lead to learning which leads to adjustments to your strategy.

Dump on your planning document! It’s ok to have pages ear-marked, coffee stained, scribbling and the odd blood stained paper cut. It shows that it has been used to journalize your strategic journey.

The dirtier the better.


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  • Posted 11.14.09 at 05:26 pm by Roy Osing
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November 11, 2009

How to build an awesome plan from amazing execution

Take a look at your strategic planning documents. I will wager that the vast majority of them are based on a 5 year period.

The 5-year Plan pervades our planning paradigms and it’s nonsense in today’s world of unpredictability and uncertainty.

Bottom line - does the 5th year ever happen? NO! It becomes the 4th year after one year; the 3rd year after the second year of the five year cycle. Well if the latter years never really occur why do we try and plan for them in our strategic development process? The only reason I can think of is that the 5-year plan is an accepted way of doing things when it comes to strategic planning.


We need a planning process that is execution centric; a focus on months as the planning unit rather than years. Compressing the planning time horizon to 24 months in order to keep execution as the activity driver of the organization.

In addition, An execution focused planning approach recognizes that there are random unpredictable forces that impact the results as we move along the execution path.

We need to learn from how well the plan execution is going and make adjustments along the way.

The steps in the process include:
- Plan
- Learn
- Adjust
- Go back to EXECUTE

The result of this process is of course that your strategic plan document suddenly becomes an organic entity.

It changes as you learn through execution.

It is morphed from a statement of strategic direction to what I call a repository of learning. It is a messy document. It is written on. It had coffee stains on the pages of which many are earmarked for specific reference. And, it may possess the odd blood stain from an unwanted paper cut!

It is used…... unlike many planning documents that I have seen which look like their original pristine ironed form (perched ever so elegantly on a book shelf where one can hand gesture its presence but never violates its binding).

I know some planning community will take issue with this. After all I suppose it is somewhat gratifying to believe that pristine appearance and longevity of a plan somehow defines its worth.

But it doesn’t!

At best this view gives the organization a false sense of security; at worst it cultivates momentum management and the belief that the world doesn’t change and your original work will stand the test of time.

Don’t go there. Plan on the Run.


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  • Posted 11.11.09 at 11:36 am by Roy Osing
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