Paul Raggio | Without a plan, there’s nowhere to go

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in earnest to invade Panama and capture the de facto Panamanian leader, general and dictator Manuel Noriega. I was the law enforcement planning officer, and part of the team squirreled away on the top floor of the Corps Headquarters. With me were representatives from all the major combat, combat support and combat service support elements making up the joint forces executing the operation. 

Sequestered from the Fort Bragg population, we swore secrecy about the operation and discussed it with a very select and limited number of people. This was my first exposure to the Army’s detailed planning and Military Decision-Making Process (MDMP), where life-and-death outcomes were, in part, determined by our thoroughness. 

The MDMP contains seven steps. The second step, titled “Mission Analysis,” is by far the most important. If you get this step wrong, then the succeeding steps — course of action development, analysis, comparison, and selection, all determined by the mission analysis — become irrelevant. In the mission analysis step of the process, defining the problem to be solved is paramount, and the purpose is to understand the situation with as much clarity as possible, visualize the outcome that leads to a successful conclusion, and articulate this visualization and outcome to those tasked to perform the mission. 

Using this process counters three decision-making fatal flaws: decide a problem is solved, when in fact, it remains; determine a problem is not solved, when in fact, it is; and devote effort in solving the wrong problem, thus, exhausting precious resources. 

Business application

Just imagine businesses, no matter size or sector, using their own formalized planning process in creating their vision, mission, goals and objectives. The success and growth rates explode because companies bring clarity to where they are headed (vision), how they intend on getting there (mission), the progress pillars achieved along the way (goals) and the tasks assigned to team members responsible for carrying them out (objectives). Absolute clarity, although never realized, is what businesses seek — clarity of their offerings, price-points, target markets, sales cycles, ideal customers, reliable vendors, cash availability, creditworthiness. 

The value of planning is to draw out this clarity in solving current and foreseen challenges along the pathway to achieving the company’s vision, for, without a plan, there is nowhere to go. 

I’ve observed many business owners struggle with company goal formation and development, the essential progress pillars needed to achieve its mission, and solidify its annual business plan. They lack a goal formation and development process, don’t know where to start or how to craft statements that are specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented and time-framed. The key to goal formation always starts with defining the problem … what is it you’re trying to solve. 

Clarity is essential

Similar to the second step in the MDMP, mission analysis, you want to understand the situation with as much clarity as possible, visualize the outcome that leads to a successful conclusion, and then articulate this outcome in your annual plan to those charged with carrying it out.  

In further developing each goal, determine the resources and time you need to achieve it. If you don’t have the resources to invest or the time to complete the goal, it doesn’t meet the attainability test and eliminate it. Next, determine if achieving the goal is aligned with your mission and vision, and if not, it doesn’t meet the results-oriented test and eliminate it.  

Leaders seek and provide clarity to their team by guiding them through the goal formation and development process, testing to ensure each goal is specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented and time-framed. And if a goal fails any of these tests, it’s eliminated from consideration. By doing so, leaders guard against deciding a problem is solved, when in fact, it remains; determining a problem is not solved, when in fact, it is; and devoting effort to solving the wrong problem, thus, exhausting precious resources. 

Following this goal formation and development process provides the clarity businesses seek and document in their annual business plan to achieve outstanding results. With a plan, you will always see the pathway in front of you. Without one, there’s nowhere to go. This is how you lead, think, plan and act! Now let’s get after it. 

Paul A. Raggio is co-owner, with his sister Lisa, of One True North INC Leadership and Business Coaching Solutions.

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