We see it far too often.
A business or community hires a large and ‘well-respected’ planning or consulting firm to help them decide on an objective and develop strategies that will lead to action and a result. The intentions are good in nature. But the process ends up as just another document for which resources (time, money and stakeholder capital) were diminished without any real results.
So, why does nothing happen?
Let’s Look at an Example
The following is a recent news story that appeared on our radar.
The Daily News
Economic development officials and the local commission are expected to spend the coming weeks and months determining how to implement parts, or all, of the study recommendations.
“We’ll be keeping you posted as we go through this process,” he said.
Chairman Lewis said the months-long study process was the “easy part.”
“The hard part is moving and putting the plan in place,” he said to presentation attendees. “In order for us to do that, it’s going to take all of you participating.”
NOTE: in full disclosure we’ve edited the names and title of the paper and people to protect the innocent.
The Five Most Common Barriers to Action
- A study is not a plan. A study is a process of acquiring knowledge. A plan is a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something. As shown in the article above, the two are often confused. You don’t implement studies, you implement plans. You’d complete a sewer study to understand what your capacity is and what improvements you need. You create and adopt a capital facilities plan to finance and build the improvements. The information from a study or studies should go into a plan, but a study’s recommendations can’t be your action plan.
- Action can’t be an afterthought. Implementation needs to be part of the plan, not an afterthought or separate planning process.
- Full price for a fraction of the goods. Recommendations from a consultant are just that. However, we sometimes find that a consultant has a standard format it uses. Such formats have built in biases and are more likely to produce irrelevant and in-actionable recommendations. It’s the duty of both the consultant and the client to have regular communication so that the end result represents actions the client can take. The final product shouldn’t be questioned by stakeholders as being irrelevant or inaccurate.
- Follow the steps? It’s human nature to think in a linear way. We want to do Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, etc. So the assumption is we must hire a subject matter expert to first give us a study. Then we discern the information, call in the stakeholders, discern the information some more, start to develop a plan, reconvene the stakeholders, adjust the plan, and hopefully celebrate the plan. Before we know it 12 months have passed. It’s a long and disconnected process and its easy to see why momentum is lost. Want to improve your chances of success? Bring these processes together so they are concurrent, coordinated and concise!
- It’s your birthday. . . Celebrate success. It’s a catchy slogan we see everywhere. But to keep momentum, this is critical. While its customary to make a big to-do when a plan is finalized, little usually happens after the fact. Celebrating success shouldn’t be like celebrating a leap year birthday, it needs to be a regular thing for each milestone reached.
Our company has a different approach to economic development planning and implementation. We’re confident we can help you succeed. Contact us today for a confidential conversation about your next project.
As we work with businesses and communities we frequently hear the phrase: “Technology is a game changer.” To that we pose the question, “Hasn’t technology already changed the game?” [Hint: yes]
Here is what we know:
- Technology is changing at a pace faster than you, your business and your community comprehend.
- The implications of these technological advances mean strategic plans, such as comprehensive land use plans and economic development plans, are insanely obsolete in a short period of time.
- To compete in this brave new world, you need a bold, new strategic plan.
Not convinced? Take our technology quiz.
The Technology Quiz
Happened or Not?
- A gene-editing tool can be injected into humans to repair broken DNA to fix things like cancer
- Bionic brain controlled arms are the new prosthetic and allow the user to have full sensory to touch
- Using only our brain activity, we can fly airplanes
Get the Answers
What are the Implications?
- In economic development the speed at which technology is changing will require infrastructure to be rethought and redeveloped to ensure you can compete for the type of projects that will replace existing, traditional industry.
- In comprehensive planning and land use the speed of technological advancement require changes in how we view allowable uses, mixed use development and community design.
- In education the rapidly changing technology will mean rethinking how we teach, including looking at what we teach and how we relate it to the real world.
The Technology Quiz Answers
It may seem crazy, but all of these amazing things have happened and continue to evolve into new breakthroughs. Don’t believe it? CRISPR is a gene editing technology invented several years ago that relies on simple simple and repeatable DNA cutting enzyme to be combined with a molecular guide to edit broken genes that can be reproduced and injected back into the patient. This month it entered human trials in the U.S. and China. The Modular Prothetic Limb is a DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Agency) study that has developed robotic limbs with full sensory feeling of touch. In 2015, a quadriplegic woman became the first to fly an F-35 simulator with only her thoughts.
3-D printing is about to evolve, rapidly. Did you know that the patents for Selective Laser Melting (SLM) and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) are set to expire in December of this year? According to many reports, this may be the huge step forward that allows for more reliable production, but also ushers in the mass production and use of “desktop” printers that will allow the common citizen to be part inventor, part manufacturer and potentially the next emerging business in your community.
Technology has already changed the game, are you ready to play?
We’ve all got big plans. Lots of them. Our businesses, organizations and communities have plans ranging from simple business plans to comprehensive growth plans and from fundraising plans to economic development plans.
Yet despite all the plans, we’re making less and less progress towards our goals. Lack of funding, lack of people and lack of time are what gets the blame when plans fail to deliver results.
So what’s really wrong with planning?
Consider the Law of Inertia
Physics’ law of inertia makes clear that an object at rest will stay at rest and an object in motion will stay in motion. In applying this theory to what’s wrong with current planning practices, our company believes:
Strategic planning has been mistaken as the “force” that puts a plan (the object) in motion. That is simply not true.
In reality strategic planning is not the force, but rather the process of creating the object. A successful strategic planning process is only complete when implementation (aka a “force”) is initiated. This mistake is why so many planning documents are just an object perpetually at rest.
6 Common Planning Mistakes
Here are a list of the six most common mistakes we see in planning:
- PPV – You assumed we were talking about Pay-Per-View didn’t you? Gotcha. This acronym is even more expensive. It’s called Pay-Per-Verb. Strategic plans have become crazy long and we can only assume that either you’re charged by the verb or you equate length with greatness. War & Peace may very well have been an excellent novel, but Dr. Seuss likely has had greater impact on you and your children. Impactful, memorable and successful plans keep an eye on brevity.
- The Statue of David tries Cirque de Solei – Many strategic planning processes take too long in an effort to produce masterpieces, making them inflexible and unable to adapt to change. Could you imagine the Statue of David trying to perform Cirque de Solei? Great plans are nimble, adaptive and toe the line between what’s possible and what’s impossible.
- A Chorus of Crickets – Stakeholders: your employees, your investors, you community. They are a fundamental element of any strategic planning process and ultimately the key to successful plan implementation. But there are different kinds of stakeholders and if the stakeholder portion of strategic planning is not managed correctly, you’ll have a room full of crickets. Which depending on your geography could be a euphemism for either silence or a cacophony of chirping. Stakeholder selection, stakeholder roles and expectations, and stakeholder participation need to be defined prior to initiating a strategic planning process and monitored throughout.
- Christmas at My House – Everyone present on Christmas morning in my house gets presents. Probably too many of them. Many organizational and community strategic planning processes lose focus when they try and make their plan a wish list for Santa that is neither realistic or sustainable. This may make the process of planning go smoothly, but it can quickly start to feel like buyer’s remorse when you get the first bill.
- The Lost and Bound – If your strategic plan is so great that it needs a binder to hold it’s contents in place, you’ve failed. Your plan needs to be found, adopted and championed by your employees, your investors, your community (aka “stakeholders”). In today’s world big binders of stuff are great paperweights, but nobody is going to read them or rally around them. Your plan needs to be discernible and digital friendly. Because if the plan isn’t clear or present, your results are in danger.
- Only Fine Wines Age Well – Too often we see communities go through 9-18 months of process to create a five year plan. Five years! That’s an eternity given the pace at which technology is exponentially changing (See: Technology Changed the Game). If five year economic plans couldn’t work for the USSR when there were fewer variables impacting the outcome, it’s clear that lengthy planning exercises and rigid planning horizons in today’s world only limit the ability of your business, organization or community to adjust to change and embrace innovation. Great plans reflect the inevitable reality of change and are conditioned to embrace and evolve to meet each new challenge.
We want to help you succeed. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you with your next strategic plan and its implementation.