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Transform the Year-End Planning Ritual

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Once again, ’tis the season for annual planning, an exercise that fills managers with hope, dread, despair and anticipation. It’s a time when we contemplate the future of our organizations, technology and personal fortunes.

For most companies, the planning process takes place in a management meeting that can last as little as a few hours or as long as a week. But most of the agendas for these meetings are basically the same. They include:

  • What did we do this year?
  • What do we want to do next year?
  • And, occasionally, Who’s going to be responsible for making next year’s stuff happen?
  • Of course, hidden in these deceptively simple questions are myriad subtle and difficult questions about technology, alignment, strategy, priorities and budgeting. By adding just a few more questions, you’re more likely to garner the benefits of all this planning. It’s equally important to address the following:

  • How did we work together this year?
  • How do we want to work together next year?
  • How can we make the transition from how we were to how we’d like to be?
  • These are important subjects, because most of what we’d like to do fails to happen because of how we work together, not because we’ve selected the wrong things to do. The dynamics of group functioning are most often at the heart of project and organizational failures, not poor planning.

    Here are four factors that will help you figure out whether your organizational dynamics support or detract from achieving your goals.

    Motivation. Perhaps the most important determinant of success is the motivation level of your organization. Listless and disengaged teams never achieve great things. No matter how well you plan what these teams will do, they’re unlikely to complete much. But truly motivated groups can overcome deficits in virtually every other area to achieve their goals.

    Here are a few questions to ask about the motivation of your organization: How motivated are your managers and project teams? How important is it to them that their projects succeed? Do they care whether their work supports a business purpose? How engaged are they with their work and their co- workers?

    Structure. How your people are organized to work together also has a strong effect on group dynamics. More than just identifying the chain of command, the structure of the group communicates a lot about the values of the organization and delineates each individual’s role in its collective success.

    So consider these questions: Does everyone understand the overall structure? Is it easy for individuals to understand their own roles? Does everyone understand their individual goals and how achieving them will contribute to collective success?

    Leadership. Leadership is particularly important because it has the ability to transform all the other facets of group dynamics. Good leadership offers the possibility of positive change rather than stagnation or chaos.

    Although a very complex subject, there are a few questions to ask about the quality of your leadership team. How strong are our relationships with our clients and peer organizations? How do the staffers feel about their managers and one another? Do we have coherent and generally accepted processes and goals?

    Teamwork. Ultimately, work gets done by groups of people, usually arranged into project teams. How well the members of these teams work together, in many respects, dictates what they accomplish and their ability to carry on after completing a project.

    While teams in your organization probably have different strengths and weaknesses, there are often patterns of attitudes and behaviors across teams that are dictated by the organizational culture. For example, do your people tend to trust one another? Do they engage in constructive conflict, destructive conflict, or do they just avoid it altogether? Do they really care about the results of their work, or are they focused on other things?

    Planning represents a significant investment of mental and emotional energy for every organization. If you’d like to improve the return on that investment, I’d advise planning for both what your group will do and how you would like them to do it. With a little extra thought, you can transform sterile annual planning into genuine organizational renewal.

    (This article originally appeared in Computerworld USA and Computerworld Australia.)

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    Paul Glen is an IT management consultant and the author of the award-
    winning book “Leading Geeks: How to Manage and Lead People Who Deliver
    Technology” (Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer,2003). He regularly speaks for
    corporations and national associations across North America. For more
    information go to: http://www.paulglen.com. He can be reached at
    info@paulglen.com.

    Transform the Year-End Planning Ritual
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    About Paul Glen
    Paul Glen is an IT management consultant and the author of the award- winning book "Leading Geeks: How to Manage and Lead People Who Deliver Technology" (Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer,2003). He regularly speaks for corporations and national associations across North America. For more information go to: http://www.paulglen.com. He can be reached at info@paulglen.com. WebProNews Writer
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