Simplifying

“Simplify” has been the theme of the week that I have just spent with some of my colleagues in the Far East. Ten regional management teams, each of about seven people, have been developing strategic plans for the next year.

Each regional leadership team used a process as follows:

  1. The whole group review the Vision and Mission of the organization.
  2. Each person review the purpose of the team in which they work.
  3. Each person individually review their job description.
  4. As a team, review where their part of the organization is now, and what the Vision is for the organization. Determine what new “Wildly Important Goal(s)” they might want in their region for the coming year.
  5. Agree as a team what each person’s contribution needs to be towards the Wildly Important Goal(s) for the coming year.
  6. As a team, merge the new goal and the resulting actions for the team into the team’s tactical and ongoing strategic plan.
  7. Each person determines what actions they need to take in the coming year to execute their job description to achieve the goals (including the Wildly Important Goal(s)) for the team. For each proposed action, the number of working days to implement the action over the coming year is determined.
  8. Each person individually ranks their proposed actions in order of priority.
  9. Each person briefly explains their proposed actions to the rest of their team. Each explanation can take a maximum of 30 seconds per action.
  10. All of the proposed actions from each team member are collected into one list that everyone in the team can see.
  11. All of the team discusses and votes on the relative importance of all of the proposed actions for the team. Everyone has a certain number of votes (e.g. 10 votes), but they are not allowed to vote on their own actions. Discussion, even heated discussion, is allowed at this point.
  12. The team maps onto a yearly calendar the time taken to implement the agreed highest priority 30 actions. If the calendar says that the team has time to implement more actions, then the next highest batch of actions are mapped onto the calendar. This is continued as far as the practical amount of time on the calendar allows.
  13. Each action on the plan is costed out for the team budget.
  14. Funding plans and funding justifications are developed for each new key initiative in the plan.

This process is taking about 20 working hours, in our case, spread over 5 days.

There are several things that I like about this process. Hence I’m putting it out here for you to see.

I like the focus on prioritization at the team level, and mapping the reality of the workload impact on the team into a calendar. This forces a realistic view on what the team can handle, and stops the team from being overly optimistic on new initiatives it is trying to adopt.

The bigger thing that I like is the voting to weed out of actions taken out by the team that really do not add value to achieving the Vision of the organization. This is the part where simplification really comes into the process. This also echoes ideas behind lean management that are described in this McKinsey article.

However, if there was one thing that I would change, it would be to include heavy direct input from the local staff and our volunteer associates into the idea pool of possible initiatives that could be taken over the coming year. Maybe in next year’s planning process……

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