The Value of Planning in the Workplace

Not sure about your world, but things keep changing here in mine.  I spent the weekend in Auburn, AL watching baseball between the Tigers and the Vanderbilt Commodores and the value of planning could have never been more clear to me.

You might be saying to yourself, “What does college baseball have to do with the workplace” and I will respond that sometimes the laboratory or an unusual situation away from the norm can cast illuminating light on situations that you never conceived.  Let me elaborate further.

College baseball has used the aluminum bat for years and there have been constant concerns about safety when it comes to the speed of the ball when it leaves the bat.  The NCAA made some substantial changes to the responsiveness of the bat and the bats this year are much less “alive” than their counterparts last year.  Auburn led the nation in home runs last year and their output this year has dropped off substantially.  Their method for winning was very much built around the home run philosophy and this allowed them to focus less on pitching and defense in their ability to win games.  The change in the bat has made defense and pitching much more important and hence, their record has sagged this year and they took a beating from a very solid team that is more well-rounded this past weekend.

Still scratching your head?  Here is the connection.

Planning involves a SWOT analysis; Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  Strengths and Weaknesses are internal while Opportunities and Threats are external.  The change to the bat was an external issue which definitely changed the environment that Auburn plays in when it comes to baseball.  Their method for competing successfully in past years revolved around outscoring their opponents or “gorilla ball” as we might call it.  Toning down the bat made “gorilla ballmuch more difficult to play and it put teams such as this one at a tremendous disadvantage if they had not made requisite changes in their pitching and defense.  Vanderbilt plays the same game, but their strategy is much more focused on pitching and defense and “small ball”, meaning that they score runs based on singles and doubles and less on home runs.  The change in the external environment, the bat change, actually helps teams like Vandy and others with solid pitching and defense.

Tired of baseball?  Here’s the connection.

Things are changing in  your external environment and I ask you the question, “How are you keeping track?”  Do you know of the changes that are occurring in your industry or your geography?  Is your current strategy appropriate for the world that we are entering versus the world we are leaving?

You may have the “bats” for last year’s game, but the game may be changing.  How will you adapt?

Firms with solid planning discipline take a look at these internal and external issues on a regular basis.  Your firm needs to consistently look in the mirror and out the window.  The mirror will help with the inner issues and the window will address the outer issues.

Don’t let your firm get caught with the wrong strategy while the game is changing.  Have the discipline to plan.  A wise man once said “Fail to plan; Plan to fail.”  I tend to agree.  Your plans may not always hold true, but the discipline of planning and self reflection will go a long way in helping your firm be successful!