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A Balancing Act for Successful Organizational Planning
Tony Akins Senior Principal Agile Consultant | August 5, 2020
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A Balancing Act for Successful Organizational Planning

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about balance. I know, you’re probably thinking I’m talking about work/life balance—but actually, I’ve been pondering physical balance. Bear with me while I tell you what led to my musings.

A Look into the Future?

For the past few years, my sister, who is 12 years older than me, has been dealing with vertigo, the cause of which her doctors can’t seem to nail down. The net result is that she has fallen several times and has used a walker in the last six months to help her maintain her balance. 

Over the recent holidays I visited her and became very concerned for her—and a bit scared for myself—since her balance and physical strength had degraded as I had seen her a month before.

Why was I scared for myself? Well, I’ve always been known as the clumsy member of the family—not my sister. Because I’ve been clumsy since childhood, I taught myself how to fall without causing too much damage. Even so, I’ve had a couple of bad falls in the last six years (18 stitches in my knee and forehead with the scars to prove it). I began to wonder if I was seeing my own future in my sister’s mysterious vertigo, a future I certainly don’t want.

Improving My Balance

When I got home from visiting my sister, I immediately searched for exercises and routines to improve my balance.

One exercise is walking toe to heel in a straight line, as if you’re on an imaginary tightrope. I’m getting better at it, and I’ve noticed that my balance changes depending on whether I focus on my next step, a few steps ahead, or my ultimate destination.  

What I’ve discovered is this: My balance is best when I focus on the middle ground—a few steps ahead. When I focus on my immediate next step, I tend to sway. When I focus on my ultimate destination, I’m looking too far ahead to see obstacles right in front of me, like a nasty tree root jutting out of the sidewalk. I realized that seeing obstacles in my way helps me improve my balance and avoid falls while reminding me that the future—the path I’m walking down—can throw up roadblocks at any time.

What does all this have to do with Organizational Planning?

I’m glad you asked.

You see, improving and maintaining our body’s physical balance serves a purpose similar to improving and maintaining organizational forecasting and planning. Let’s work through it together.

The Short-Term Approach: Focusing on the Next Step

Just as I discovered when walking on my imaginary tightrope, an organization that focuses on short term planning (the plan for today or the current sprint plan) can sway and waver from its ultimate destination or organization goals. Success in the present does not guarantee success in the long term when it comes to realizing organization goals. In fact, when we don’t keep an eye on the future, what we accomplish in the present might actually hinder long-term success.

The Mid-Term Approach: Focusing on a Few Steps Ahead

Focusing on a few steps ahead is like mid-term planning (6-12 weeks into the future). When we focus on the mid-term, we can still keep an eye on the short-term plan and verify whether our present tasks and accomplishments will help or hinder us in the future. The mid-term plan also provides a bridge to the long-term plan, forecast or roadmap.

The Long-Term Approach: Focusing on Your Final Destination 

Focusing on your final destination is similar to long-term planning or forecasting (looking months, even years into the future) with little or no concern for the here and now. If we focus primarily on the long-term plan/forecast, we could very well become blind to what is happening right now. We might stumble over a tree root directly in our path and face plant to the sidewalk—not a graceful performance for realizing organizational objectives.

And ironically, lack of attention to the here and now could hinder our ability to deliver on the long-term planning/forecast. When we don’t pay attention to and address sudden changes in our current circumstances, those changes can render part or all of our long-term planning obsolete.

When we don’t pay attention to and address sudden changes in our current circumstances, those changes can render part or all of our long-term plan obsolete.

A Blend is the Best

Now that we’ve looked at three approaches to the balancing act called for in long-term planning, let’s blend them together in a way that leads to success.

Just as my balance is best when I focus on the next few steps, but still keep the present and my long-term destination in mind, the same is true for organizational development plan. When we focus on our mid-term plan with occasional check-ups on both the short term and our ultimate destination, we perform a balancing act that ensures successful execution of organizational objectives.

When we focus on our mid-term plan with occasional check-ups on both the short term and our ultimate destination, we perform a balancing act that ensures successful execution.

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