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The Importance of Planning Across Multiple Time Horizons

Dan Saaty

August 25, 2021

The Importance of Planning Across Multiple Time Horizons-featured-image
In this article

    The most effective planners track progress across multiple time horizons. These individuals are equipped to ensure the right investments are made at the right time to keep the organization moving towards its objectives.

    In some organizations, planners are responsible for multiple planning horizons and in others for discrete windows. Siloed planning processes create disconnects as investments veer away from critical mission needs. It is critical that planners collaborate across the horizons to ensure the best possible outcomes now, in the near term, and years down the line. 



    Long-Range Planners

    Focused on transformation, long-range planners must forecast what the world will look like in 20 years to assess threats and opportunities. They must then implement a well-designed and articulated investment strategy to deliver capabilities for the predicted future.

    The long-range plan is by design vague, describing general concepts about organizational structure and mission in the future. Minute details, such as specific milestones, costs and timeframes are more abstract, subject to change, and challenging to fully pin down. It is important to embrace this paradigm as a concrete plan would result in missed opportunities.

    Successful long range planners are adept at abstract thinking. They can look at the world how it is and envision potential changes in the future. They can make educated guesses based on what is happening now as to what categories are most important to invest in. They are very adept at keeping their ear to the ground for potential new transformational capabilities. They survey the landscape surfacing capabilities and find ways to eralize the mission-related value of those capabilities.



    Mid-Range Planners

    Focused on a 5-8 year window, mid-range planners must connect the dots between the reality of today and their organization’s aspirational future.  

    Success requires engaging a broad swath of the organization during the evaluation process to ensure effective resource allocation. Of all the planners, mid-range is most reliant on collecting the tacit knowledge of the organization from operations to capital planning, logistics, training and beyond to sustainment. This insight is used to help leaders ensure they are providing resources to close the gaps long-range planners identified through smart investments in new capabilities.

    Successful mid-range planners are adept at capturing inputs, visualizing, presenting courses of action and tradeoffs, then ultimately supporting decision-makers in creating a concrete plan that allocates the right mix of dollars and manpower for mission success.



    Short-Range Planners

    Short-range planners focus on today, but the most impactful individuals never lose sight of the big picture. Primary tasks include formulating the budget and tracking spend across multiple colors of money throughout the year to ensure that dollars are obligated and executed in an efficient, logical, and consistent manner.

    As programming dollars become increasingly constrained, more investment requests are falling into the category of unfunded requirements (UFRs). Many of these UFRs are mission critical needs that for one reason or another were not funded in the last cycle’s planning and programming process.

    As more requirements move from being part of the program to being UFRs, the role of the financial manager is becoming increasingly strategic. As opposed to the past where the primary focus was on ensuring hitting obligation, commitment, and execution targets, Those in financial roles are now finding themselves in the strategic position of trying to inform leader decisions between an ever-increasing list of funding needs; many essential to mission success.

    Successful short-range planners are adept at managing a rapidly changing operational and financial landscape. They are comfortable with fluid data and finding ways to organize it to inform decisions on a running basis. 

    Increase Effectiveness in Planning Across the Horizons 

    Having an understanding of all three time horizons and what is needed to be successful at them can help planners be more effective in determining strategy for the short term, mid term, and long term. However, deciding how to fund your organization's needs, both now and in the future, has a number of challenges and trade-offs.

    Decision Lens helps planners to develop and execute on their strategy for all planning horizons. Our software helps organizations to forecast different scenarios and view different trade-offs so that leaders can make the best decisions. Learn more about our organization and request a demo today!


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