Creating a Dynamic Strategic Plan that Engages the Enterprise
Having a strategic plan is a vital aspect of any successful organization. Unfortunately, most organizations have strategic plans that are really financial plans in disguise. And the larger the organization, the more true this statement is. In other words, the goals of the strategic plan are monetary goals.
Having goals related to profits is fine, but that’s only one element of a strategic plan. You also need a plan for what you’re doing to de-commoditize your commodities—those products and services with increasingly thinner margins and greater competition. You need a plan that outlines what you’re going to do to differentiate yourself from your competitors. You need a plan that details your innovation strategies for creating new products and services that drive new markets. Those key elements are often missing in a financially focused strategic plan.
So yes, financial planning is a vital component of strategic planning; it helps your company reach your financial goals. But true and thorough strategic planning also looks at how you gain new competitive advantages and other broader concepts that can accelerate growth beyond the target numbers of a financially focused plan. Therefore, your strategic planning needs to be a mix of financial planning (strategies to reach financial goals), strategy focused planning (strategies to create sustainable competitive advantage), long-range planning (using research to determine future positions), and tactical planning (to determine your execution strategies).
An old saying tells us, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” That saying has never been truer for companies than today, which is why having a strategic plan is so essential. But just having an annual strategic planning process that creates a fixed, static plan is no longer enough. Today it’s important to build change into the plan and have the ability to adapt it in real-time because the world and markets are changing so quickly. In other words, it’s time for companies to do some dynamic planning.
Dynamic versus Static Planning
These days, a traditional static plan is becoming less desirable and less effective, and a dynamic plan is becoming more relevant and imperative. What’s the difference? A static plan is a document, either digital or printed, that is published, shared with key employees, and then put in a file cabinet or digital folder. In contrast, a dynamic plan goes beyond one-way informing and also communicates the plan in a two-way, on-going dialog to everyone in the enterprise. A version is also shared with strategic partners. It’s a living, breathing, and evolving entity that everyone engages in and supports. Think of it like this:
• A dynamic strategic plan communicates rather than informs. It’s a two-way dialogue between the company leaders and the employees.
• A dynamic strategic plan reaches beyond the company walls and goes out to strategic partners. After all, how are your strategic partners going to help you if they don’t know what you’re trying to do?
• A dynamic strategic plan evolves. It elicits dialogue and input from others. It can be continually refined and improved. This is in contrast to a static strategic plan, which is sent out to employees with the expectation that they’ll adapt to the plan rather than the plan adapting to them and the market.
Why are these three points so important? Because with a typical static strategic plan, people may not have time to read the plan, they may not agree with the plan, and they may not take action on it. In addition, they may find major flaws in the plan but have no means to provide risk-free feedback regarding their concerns.
However, with a dynamic strategic plan, you’re communicating with people and you get feedback. You’re not telling people the plan after the fact. Rather, you’re showing them the plan and asking for their help with identifying potential challenges. The goal is to solve the problems before they occur.
Following are some additional hallmarks of a dynamic strategic plan:
• Break it down. Remember that big lists rarely get done. Therefore, it’s important to highlight and break down the plan into its elemental strategic imperatives. And if you have more than five, you have too many. The magic number is three. Why break a long plan down into basic elements? Because you want everyone in the organization to know the basic elements. If they don’t know them, you won’t accomplish them. If people have to look them up, they won’t. However, if it’s broken down into short elements, it’ll stay top of mind. When it’s top of mind every day, people will know what the strategic imperatives are and will be more likely to attain them. Having the plan broken down into its basic elements is like having a guide that leads your organization to the future.
• Tell stories. Bring the words of your company’s strategic plan to life by turning it into story form so that it becomes visual for people. Have the plan paint a picture in every employee’s mind’s eye so they can see what this plan will do and where the company is going. Visuals are powerful. If you’ve never seen what E=MC2 means—the visual of it—then you still don’t understand Einstein’s theory of relativity. However, those who see it in a visual story format understand it. For many organizations, a strategic plan can be complex and often just as hard to understand as the theory of relativity. Therefore, take the complexity in your plan and simplify it; boil it down to what it means to the employees and the company, and help everyone see it in their mind’s eye. Some companies have gone as far as hiring a graphic artist to paint a mural that depicts the plan. They put the mural in the lunchroom or in the entryway to the building. It becomes a visual that depicts the plan, including the outcome. Talk about getting a story ingrained in people’s minds!
• Go multimedia. While your dynamic strategic plan could be a document, it could also be a video that people watch…and it could be an audio they listen to…and it could be a picture they look at…and it could be any combination of things. Remember that people learn in different ways. Some people prefer to read a book, while others prefer to listen to a book in audio form. The people who prefer to read the book wonder why anyone would listen to a book. And those who prefer to listen to a book wonder why anyone would purchase a printed book. Since we all learn in different ways, it only makes sense to put the strategic plan out in various formats. If you put the strategic plan out in one format, then you’re only engaging one learning style within an organization that has multiple styles. In fact, in a world where multimedia is easy and the tools are relatively free, there’s no excuse for not getting the strategic plan in multiple formats.
• Get social. Social media an ideal way to make a strategic plan dynamic. There are internal secure versions of various social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook. Simply do a Google search to find them. The key word to remember is “social.” It’s about creating engagement and involvement. For example, as employees execute the plan, you can be tweeting success stories, accomplishments, and roadblocks—all in an effort to gain feedback and ideas. Additionally, you can be using online collaborative tools to work with the different groups that are executing the plan so everyone can see where the other parties are in need of help. Unfortunately, most organizations still have silos and fiefdoms. A dynamic strategic plan tends to break them down and get everyone headed in the same direction.
The bottom line is that truly successful and innovative companies will have a strategic plan that is in motion. They’ll have a dynamic document that can be added to, massaged, and refined with graphics, video, and audio. They’ll have an internal, multimedia website and app versus a static and informing one. In short, they’ll have something that’s dynamic and moving. That’s simply impossible to do without technology.
So the key for leaders is this: You need to engage people with your plans rather than inform them of your plans. But because most executives don’t know what is now technically possible, they’ll never ask for a dynamic strategic plan. Therefore, it is important to get your CIO involved to help create and drive the ideas and show the organization what’s possible. In fact, the only way to do a dynamic plan is with strategic vision and technology.
With the rapid pace of change, the traditional static planning system is a dinosaur. Most people do it only because they have to. Now is the time to redefine what a strategic plan is—for the organization, for the employees, and for the limitless opportunities such a plan affords everyone involved.
DANIEL BURRUS is considered one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and innovation experts, and is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous untapped opportunities. He is the author of six books including The New York Times best seller Flash Foresight.
Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."
- Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
- Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
- Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
A plan to forgive almost a trillion dollars in debt would solve the student loan debt crisis, but can it work?
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren has just proposed a bold education reform plan that would forgive billions in student debt.
- The plan would forgive the debt held by more than 30 million Americans.
- The debt forgiveness program is one part of a larger program to make higher education more accessible.
Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.
- Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
- They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
- The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.
The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?
But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.
What's dead may never die, it seems
The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.
BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.
The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.
As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.
The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.
"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.
An ethical gray matter
Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.
The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.
Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.
Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?
"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."
One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.
The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.
"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.
It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.
Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?
The dilemma is unprecedented.
Setting new boundaries
Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."
She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.
In most states, LGBTQ Americans have no legal protections against discrimination in the workplace.
- The Supreme Court will decide whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also applies to gay and transgender people.
- The court, which currently has a probable conservative majority, will likely decide on the cases in 2020.
- Only 21 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws effectively extending the Civil Rights of 1964 to gay and transgender people.
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