Planning vs Culture

I have been involved in helping countless organizations develop annual business plans over the last 30 years.  They contain written objectives with assigned accountability and target dates.  They contain specific, measurable, and what should be attainable growth and profit goals.  But far too many agency plans fall short, primarily because they come up against an agency culture that undermines the attainment of the plan from the beginning.

I liken company culture in organizations to habits and character in individuals. Many business plans are similar to New Year resolutions of individuals.  New Year resolutions have a low probability of sustained success because the underlying habits and sustained behavior are not addressed. Most are followed for a short time and then old habits and behaviors take over and the resolutions are soon forgotten.  New Year resolutions fail because they are goals and desires that do not incorporate sustained changes in the habits and daily behaviors of the resolver. Likewise, any agency plan must include not only vision and goals, but fundamental changes to the expectations, rituals, practices, and behaviors of the entire organization.

It all starts with the leaders of the organization.  Leaders need to keep the vision and goals of the organization alive and acted upon. It also requires a guidance system to evaluate, monitor and correct when plans or activities get off track. Leaders need to hold people accountable and reward the right behaviors, while taking corrective action on those who don’t get on board.  In other words, a leadership and management culture of reward and accountability.

Our consulting practice is centered on helping organizations enhance and realize value.  Value enhancement centers on leadership, people, processes and productivity.  These are the requisite elements that create high growth as well as high profit firms.  A good business plan can help in all these areas, and most agencies that take the time to develop a solid plan show at least incremental improvement in most of these areas.  The plan helps the agency create initial momentum.  Sustaining and building on the momentum is what creates a dynamic culture and requires leadership and a solid guidance system.

We have found that one of our key services is helping business leaders develop their vision, plans, and guidance systems; but more importantly holding them accountable in building a strong agency culture and sustainable momentum.

Achieving high agency growth and profits starts with the right vision and plan but is only achieved through sustained action.  Sustained action is achieved through having the right people with the right rituals, habits and behaviors that become institutionalized.   Simple but not easy.

This could also be called agency culture. And to paraphrase an old saying:  company culture will eat unmonitored and unmanaged business plans for breakfast every time.

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