Zen and the art of strategic planning

Looking back over the first six months of 2019, I can divide my customers into those having strategies that are so complex they are undecipherable and those that have no strategy at all. In the first group there were 50-page documents with diagrams that still haunt me with shapes and connecting lines akin to the first crayon scribbles of a one year old. What I see so rarely is a ‘Zen- like’ strategy that is simple and clear to any person who reads and/or views it. Understandable to the extent that the strategy can be executed.

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing to the future.”

                                                                        Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Effective strategic planning is a process and not an event. The strategic plan is developed in an evolutionary process that eliminates excess and complexity. It is this process that makes strategic planning more difficult; taking what could be complex and creating something simple and essential.

Is your LMS blocking strategy execution?

The learning management system (LMS) should be a primary support tool for ensuring strategic execution is successful. A business that is focused on strategic execution needs all people to be working on the right tasks at the right time. The whole organisation needs to know the strategic goals and their role in achieving them.  A learning management system, with the right features and tools, is ideally suited to align people to strategy and provide learning support.

One of the biggest barriers to successful execution is people not having access to information and learning to support their work. An organisation with high levels of productivity and engagement does not lose focus by people having to search for information and learning on topics they need to complete tasks. The learning management system should be a key software tool to improve productivity and engagement with learning. 

If the LMS is not performing these vital functions effectively then it is acting as a roadblock to strategy execution.  How does a well implemented learning management system support strategic execution? Below are some of the ones we have identified in our most recent implementation projects.

  • Configurable, flexible and scalable organisation structure in the LMS that accurately reflects how the business operates and its ongoing reporting needs. 
  • Ability to support large numbers of users and an extended enterprise. The performance of the LMS should not be compromised when there are large user populations accessing it. 
  • User administration of large populations is supported with the user interface, bulk actions and  adaptable configurations. 
  • The LMS includes extensive automated actions and workflow configurations to support how the  organisation operates. You should not be forced to adapt your workflows to the LMS.   
  • Reporting must be extensive and flexible. The LMS should provide senior leadership historical and predictive indicators to support decision making.
  • Integration and data sharing is essential to support the organisation’s information architecture. The LMS should not be an ‘island’ of data. 

It is critical that the selection process reflects requirements that are both strategic and tactical. The requirements are best collected and assessed drawing on a wide range of stakeholders in the organisation including the ‘C suite’.

There are just some of the areas that we assess when working on a new LMS acquisition plan with a client. This helps us assess the various LMS software options and vendors that are proactively updating their software to meet changes in the workforce and operating environments.

  • Are there plans for any mergers and acquisitions?
  • Is the business likely to open up offices in other locations?
  • Will be business adopt a remote workforce model?
  • Does the business currently support a channel or may do so in the future?
  • Will the business undertake a digital transformation project and will the new learning management system remain fit for purpose?

Strategy in the age of urgency

There are some organisation and culture shifts you and your leadership team may want to consider when developing your strategy. Focus on speed by encouraging decision- making outside safety net you may have in your culture. Do your people make decisions with enough information or are decision stalled by too much research and risk aversion? Design your strategy and execution plan to accommodate the dynamism that exists in your industry sector(s), competitors and within your organisation. Resist the common temptation to build objectives based on expected outcomes and focus on value creation. Value creation may demand more course correction and fluidity in business processes. Push decision making to the points in your organisations that are faced with the immediate need to make those decisions. Remove your fear and recruit and develop your people to make decisions rapidly and in response to needs. This is becoming even more critical in the competition for the best customer experience. Change your training models to focus on individual needs. One size fits all may be ok for compliance training but if you want to attract and retain talent, you must offer tailored development that will benefit your people and your organisation. As you empower people to make decisions quickly, change your thinking about leadership. Shed the outdated model of leadership bestowed by title and position. Any person can be a leader and you want as many in your organisation as you can recruit and develop. Using principles to align your people and your organisation is far more effective and adaptable that stacks of policy and procedure manuals. Principles require modelling and incessant communication at all levels of the organisation and particularly by leadership.  Principles need to be part of the performance review process.