Are you Planning for Change?

November 4, 2015

“Change before you have to.” - Jack Welch

A famous quote from the former CEO of GE advises us that you have to seek change. One of the greatest challenges in corporate America is to constantly work towards change, and to never accept the status quo. The reasons are far reaching – customers have changing expectations of how they interact with your business because the technology they use is changing; competition will have new offerings that eat away at your market share before you know it; your employees expect to be on the cutting edge of progress and not in a “lead following” position.

But constant change is not natural to human behavior. We seek to achieve a better position and then to maintain stability so that you can reap the benefits of change. If you constantly are changing, when are you ever able to benefit from what the previous change has brought?

This has had implications for many businesses and how they drive governance and decision-making. While the underlying business is moving more quickly and with agility to deliver new products and services, the inner corporate culture often is maintaining governance processes that are more suitable for business of a few years ago or even a few decades ago. They are still using manual approaches towards managing planning. Rather than revising governance towards a continuous planning process that can run in tandem with the pace of change, the governance is still a yearly “one off” with a bunch of ad-hoc and fire-fighting type of moves throughout the course of the year. Rarely is there a framework for planning that is designed to change itself as the organization progresses. In a recent study, data shows that if you can drill down into underlying information and run scenarios on the fly, 89% of organizations say that they have success in planning. If it takes you more than a week to get to that information, the rate of success drops by nearly 50% to 45% (Ventana Research). 66% of organizations say that they use spreadsheets for long-range planning, yet 67% of organizations say that those spreadsheets are a problem.

Why do we continue to do this to ourselves? Because when we think of change, we see it as outwardly focused – something to provide for customers, stakeholders, etc. We often don’t want to undertake the uncomfortable but necessary task of applying it to our own internal corporate culture and systems. That would be “painful”. The problem is that, as Jack Welch said, you had better change before you have to. That means taking the medicine now and progressing governance processes into the modern age to meet the fast change of the underlying business.

Here are 3 queries:

  • Do you have an internal effort to look at your governance processes and to modernize them? If not, you should.
  • Are you using manual tools and systems to try to guide planning in this very complex age of change and data? If you aren’t aware of what types of planning solutions are available, survey the market.
  • Is your planning an annual one-off effort, or have you moved to “continuous planning” to guide and align the organization as marketplace forces change and place pressure on change? If not, this should be the goal.