Do you have an operating platform?

November 19, 2013

I’m told that the number of apps for SMART phones now exceeds a million; quite a contrast between that statistic and the handful of platforms and operating systems required to support them.Connecting The Plan With The Current Reality

Whilst not showing quite the virility of the mobile apps family, the market for training courses and consulting programs continues to escalate to the extent that no matter what your need, there is a product tailor-made to “fix” the problem.  The trouble is that without an operating platform on which to run this type of applications software, there is a tendency towards treating the symptoms rather than the causes.  Take, for example, a program on teams and teamwork.  It’s a fair bet that the program will encompass team members’ roles, dealing with conflict, active listening, emotional intelligence, communication, team leadership and many other facets of what we instinctively recognise as team attributes.  Games to foster and illustrate teamwork are played and sporting exemplars are tabled.  The program might culminate in an address given by a well-known personality who headed a celebrated team.

Fired with enthusiasm and keen to practice what they have been taught, the attendees return to their everyday work environment.  After a few short weeks, the course is but a pleasant memory and the reality sets in.  The work environment is simply not conducive to the practice of teamwork.

Why is this scenario played out so often?

The short answer is that teams and teamwork, or leadership, or employee engagement or customer service are all dependent variables.  And if you trace their dependency back to their origins, they all end up at Planning.  If you want to get maximum value out of your training budget; indeed, if you want your organisation to be successful – however that is measured – it’s essential that you have an operating platform that sets out the hierarchy of dependency.  That way you know what parameters have to be satisfied in order to extract the maximum value from any “applications software” program and for your organisation to achieve success.

The operating platform is made up of four components, the first of which is independent but with the second dependent on the first and the third dependent on the first and second and the fourth dependent on the three that come before.  The platform has to be constructed in a specific sequence – you can’t build Component 2 until Component 1 is complete.

The four components are as follows:

■          Planning

■          Implementing

■          Monitoring, Measuring, Adapting

■          Revising

They represent an operational cycle – when “revising” is necessary, it’s back to “planning” again.

Within each Component, there is also a hierarchy of dependency at work.  Take “implementing” as an example.  The sequence is thus:

■          Implementing

●          Organisational Alignment

●          Management of Change

●          Leadership

●          Teams and Teamwork

●          Employee Engagement

This component of the operating platform works like this.  Organisational Alignment  – everyone understands where the organisation is now – everyone understands the destination and the journey and everyone understands their role in getting there – is dependent on Planning.  These three criteria should have been addressed at the planning stage.

Next is Management of Change.  Until the organisation is aligned, the changes required to achieve the organisation’s goals will not be known and hence cannot be managed.

Leadership – at all levels – cannot be practiced unless the organisation is aligned and consensus on the required changes has been reached.  If this is not the case, leadership will resemble

“The grand old Duke of York, he had ten thousand men

He marched them up to the top of the hill, and he marched them down again

And when they were up, they were up; and when they were down, they were down

And when they were only half way up, they were neither up nor down”

Now we come to Teams and Teamwork.  There are two prerequisites for effective teams and teamwork.  The first is that the team in question should have a clearly identified purpose and goal, both of which are subsets of the purpose and goals of the organisation as a whole.  Secondly, the catalyst to team development is a “significant performance challenge”.  Teams are a means to an end, not an end in themselves.  Whether these two team criteria are met will depend on Organisational Alignment, Management of Change and Leadership.  And only when they are in place will the applications software on effective teamwork have a platform that is conducive to its long term development.

The last factor is Employee Engagement.  Its position indicates that it is the most dependent of the five variables that together form the implementation component of the organisational operating platform.  If the three criteria for Organisational Alignment are met; if the rationale for Change is understood; if Leadership is such as to accomplish the change required with the minimum of resistance and resentment; if the basics for effective Teams and Teamwork are in place; if team purpose and goals are embraced by team members  – then surely the groundwork for engaged employees has been laid?

Just as there is a hierarchy of dependency for implementation, a similar hierarchy exists for Planning.  Most of the strategic planning that I see places too much emphasis on “this is what we want to do” with too little thought given to “this is how we are going to do it”.  As a consequence, the resultant action program is based on the former rather than the latter.  Executive management fail to appreciate that whilst strategic planning may be determined from above, it is actioned from below.  The vital link between Planning and Implementing is Organisational Alignment.  At the planning stage, OA is about aligning the organisation to its external environment and its internal resources.  At the implementing stage, OA is primarily about the alignment of staff to the outcomes from the planning stage.  At the Monitoring, Measuring and Adapting stage, It’s about both.

Understanding the interdependence of every facet of the operational cycle is no mean task.  Realising that there is a hierarchy of dependency and knowing what order that hierarchy is in adds a further degree of complexity.  That’s why enterprise operating platforms are few and far between but applications software continues to proliferate.

Graham Haines is principal consultant of Plans To Reality that specialises in strategic planning and execution. He is the developer of the unique Wagon Wheel WayEnterprise Operating Platform. Graham has a joint honours degree from Durham University and a Graduate Diploma of Education from Melbourne University. He is both a Certified Management Consultant and a Certified Practicing Marketer. His new book, “Execution to Die For – The Manager’s Guide To Making It Happen” draws on over 40 years’ of practical experience in understanding the interrelationship between all the factors that result in great execution.   His web site www.planstoreality.com.au contains upwards of sixty articles upon which “Execution to Die For” is based.

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