Key learnings of 30 years strategic planning. A plea for enhanced quality and tips how to improve your planning, today.
In January, Reuters reported that 38 % of 406 major US companies prepared for 2017 with a zero-based budget (ZBB) approach, and cites a respective 2016 Bain study. How lifestyle brands had planned for 2017 is unknown, but in the light of the US retail environment, many brands had to apply major cost cutting exercises to adjust earlier plans.
Those with a ZBB approach were likely better prepared than others.
‘Houston we have a Problem’
For those unfamiliar with strategic and financial planning: ZBB is a progressive form of planning, originally developed at Texas Instruments (Wikipedia). Initially, ZBB was a quality approach to planning that balanced sales with organizational costs in order to prepare an organization for crisis well ahead of coming incidents.
But like with our personal annual fitness resolutions, we often start with quality planning too late in the game to prevent a health crisis. As a consequence, many organizations downgrade ZBB to implement some semblance of ‘yo-yo’ planning (three years regular planning, gaining weight as a result – one year ZBB – three more years of gaining weight). Organizational ‘dieting’, that is, until our planning runs into a ‘Houston we have problem’ situation.
Is your Brand Growth Planning Best Practice?
If you’ve followed the news in 2017, you will know that many European and especially US brands and retailers had to rework their planning. I can’t speculate on whether the magnitude of the US department store development would have been evident earlier. But I can say that a market crisis with significant consumer and retail impact happens somewhere every 2-3 years. Examples include US retail and Brexit 2017, the luxury crisis in China 2015/16, the Russian Embargo 2014/15, the 2008 global financial crisis, and many others, all the way back to the first oil crisis in 1973.
Over the years, many good brand growth planning practices have evolved to develop quality plans, and a number of valuable studies and books have been published on the topic. For a quick list of best practice examples, it is worth checking out the American Quality and Productivity Center. One of their many studies examined best practice in planning for a couple of large US corporations (incl. Frito-Lay, Shell and Whirlpool).
To reflect on the quality of your current brand growth planning, I recommend the use of a balanced scorecard. And to give you an idea of what that looks like, I share the balanced scorecard for planning that evolved out of our learnings at Team Retail Excellence with you:
In the course of my career, I have witnessed many different approaches to brand growth planning. There is no one single company with best practice, but many. Similarly, there is no one perfect way of doing planning, but many may perfectly match a brand’s culture and organization. What approach to planning best fits your organization?
If there is one success pattern that emerged through all the differences it is this: brands that had applied quality planning processes during healthy market conditions are organizationally well-balanced and financially healthier. It seemed that brands with long-term success see planning as a ‘chance for strategic reflection’ rather than a ‘need to budget’. Planning at less balanced brands with smaller growth is often a short-term commitment or ‘new year’s resolution’. One month into the new fiscal year, the first goals are missed and the struggle to catch up begins.
Start Your Quality Brand Growth Planning Today!
Let’s face it, you know you should improve next year’s planning, but think it’s already too late. And tomorrow you have other priorities. At this rate, your planning is unlikely to improve in quality before you reach the next ‘Houston we have a problem’ situation.
If you agree that ‘yo-yo planning’ is a bad idea, how about sparing 30 minutes today to initiate a few changes to your 2018 planning process? Just 30 minutes, right after you finish reading this post!
Because, regardless of where you are in your fiscal year today, there are four things you can do to improve quality in your planning at any time:
4 Actions to improve Brand Growth Planning. Now
|Reflect current Processes;||Organize a pragmatic reflection on this year’s planning (structure, process, tools) with key players to collect a list of potential improvements. Do it today, as long last year’s planning impressions are still fresh|
|Study Best Practices||Install a cross-functional training project with your junior talent. Delegate the task of studying internal and external planning processes and developing a list of five recommendations for your next brand growth planning. Call HR today|
|Get on the Board Agenda||Reserve an agenda topic for the next board discussion on whether next year could be a good year to initiate a major health ZBB project|
|Plan earlier||Arrange for the next long range planning to start 8 weeks earlier and set project milestones that allow more time for reflection, creativity and quality. Block the launch dates today|
If there is one thing you should take away from this post, it’s that the quality of next year’s planning is created today. You may be in the lucky position of not having any pressure for better planning. But keep in mind that better quality planning is only created during good times.
It is in good times that you have the bandwidth to properly reflect on old processes and learn about potential gaps or areas for improvement. Begin your quality planning processes when you still have the time for quality: today!
About the Author
Guido is a brand strategy coach and grew planning expertise in over 50 retail & brand growth projects. He encourages you to start with new quality planning today, for example by contacting him on more tips how to improve your next year’s planning (email)