Case Study: Strategic Plan Development & Implementation
This Case Study describes how Gagnon Associates helped in the development and implementation of this client’s first, comprehensive strategic plan.
America’s oldest direct-mail catalogue marketing company.
After years of enviable growth, the company encounters a business down turn and withstands the first layoffs in its history. Impact on company morale is significant, and though the imperative to resolve on a future course is clear, consensus on future direction remains to be achieved. This will also be the first time the company has developed a comprehensive plan for the entire enterprise vs. managing its separate business channels independently.
Orvis engages Gagnon Associates to lead the executive team and a select group of additional senior managers through a comprehensive team-based Strategic Planning Process. Extensive, confidential interviews of the Executive Team provide, in the words of the CEO, a “needed and welcomed opportunity to ‘go to confession,’” while a consolidated reporting of key interview themes provides them with “new and valuable insights” critical to moving forward.
Guided by Gagnon Associates, executives conduct a comprehensive Scan of the Orvis operating environment and an assessment of the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to serve as a context for planning. Next, over a two-to-three month period Gagnon Associates leads Orvis senior executives through the rigorous planning process itself. Executives achieve consensus on company direction and, for the first time, develop concrete, corporate-wide goals, strategies, initiatives, timetables and accountability structures to achieve their common vision.
Within little more than a year, the COO reports that, due to the “heightened focus” on growth and profitability resulting from the plan, a key distribution channel experiences an 80% increase in sales. A second channel is forecast to grow by 20%. A comprehensive brand-building initiative is completed along with the complete revitalization of the human resource function and associated programs.
A reengineering initiative in the company’s merchandise operations/sourcing function transforms the new product development process and achieves 70% of the resulting cost-savings targeted for the next year by year end of the current year.
The CEO credits the Strategic Planning Process with providing “valuable insights that encouraged me to change my style and approach to leading the Company.” He asserts, “The Planning Conferences themselves provided the leadership group some valuable benefits, especially in the area of clarifying and improving the effectiveness of how we make high-level decisions. . . . We do a better job of ensuring clear disposition of issues and avoiding ‘drift’ than we did before.”
The plan results in a strategic refocusing of company direction, a revitalized organization, and improved business results described by the client as nothing less than “a turnaround.”
Business planning is critical step in successfully managing a business or operation. It is analogous to taking a journey with many participants to a destination. The journey in this case is the process and the destination a comprehensive business plan. The challenge in managing and executing a business planning process is that multiple stakeholders are involved, and they may or may not all agree on the route for the “journey” even though all know what the desired outcome or “destination” is.
This case study evaluates this “journey” to help understand what can happen but more importantly give insight to what can be done to deliver a successful business plan. Success in this case is a well-defined process with stakeholder responsibilities/accountabilities clearly defined and a business plan that is executed against by multiple stakeholders.
The best business plans are straightforward documents that spell out the “who, what, where, why, and how much.”
– Paula Nelson
The business situation was not atypical to many other planning scenarios, with a couple of background points worth mentioning. The business plan was for a portfolio of primary and specialty care products in varying stages of their product life cycle. The process also involved multiple stakeholders in the organization with differing vested interests.
The process had been managed in a transient way. The individual in charge would normally only manage 1 – 2 planning cycles and then move on to another role. The process also was influenced primarily by one stakeholder and optimized entirely around that stakeholder’s objectives. This situation was compounded by the fact that it had been redesigned a couple of times and become overly complicated. It also had a system that required business plans be inputted and was utilized only as a repository for one-time static business plans. There was also organizational discord because the process was overly complicated, still not clearly defined, and only had a budget aspect. This had an impact of changing the strategic focus to a financial focus and negatively impacted the strategic aspects of the planning process. Essentially everyone worked for the process instead of the process working for them.
Plan of Action
To understand all the moving parts and the various stakeholder requirements a detailed assessment was done. The assessment was done across stakeholders, business processes and systems. A high level of due diligence was required in the assessment to establish a reference baseline understanding and not repeat the past mistakes. This was necessitated by the stakeholder’s frustration and disdain for the current process.
To facilitate stakeholder involvement, interviews and surveys were done at all levels in the planning process. This was instrumental to identifying the underlying business planning issues and vetted out stakeholder needs and requirements. This also identified near term opportunities. One was a lynch pin that was driving much of the frustration, the business planning system repository. Eliminating this step in the process as part of the redesign was critical change management aspects that help the stakeholders to become involved in the redesign efforts.
The results of the assessment were developed into a top-line straw model that was discussed with senior management and the major stakeholders. The straw model was then refined and utilized to identify the appropriate stakeholders to engage in the process redesign. This was risky since they had already been through two redesigns; the difference this time was it was done completely internally with key stakeholders assembled into a project team.
The model was further developed to have one overall owner responsible accountable for the process, and key stakeholder responsible for their critical components in the overall process. Each component part was detailed out with objectives, accountabilities, deliverables and a timelines.
The process identified the lowest common denominator of business requirements and utilized this for base requirements. These base requirements were utilized to design templates for communicating consistently across brands and for capturing critical financial information. This imparted consistent structure while allowing for creativity.
The process redesign resulted in a four segment process that aligned corporate, financial and business planning processes across the whole year. The four segments Situation Assessment, Strategy Development, Resource Optimization and Tactical Execution.
The process had the first year “growing” pains but ultimately was institutionalized and repeated year on year. Like any other process it went through at least two to three more optimizations. This was a critical success factor to keep the stakeholders actively involved. This combined with consistent executive endorsement throughout the year made the process extremely successful.
The end result was a harmonized business planning process that allowed for creativity for the brands strategically, completely supported financial planning and executive management resource allocation decision making. The resource allocation process was improved dramatically by the efficient aggregation of consistent information across all brands from forecast to spending levels.
The new process eliminated the majority of the non-value added activities and time spent on the process. Stakeholders and all the supporting areas were completely engaged, and the brand teams evolved to do translations of their strategic plans into operational plans for the supporting areas to develop their business plans.
The harmonization of the business planning timeline and the financial planning timelines was a significant benefit that sustained the change. It was then integrated into the 5-10 year Strategic Plan, Forecasting and Sales & Operational Planning (S&OP) processes. The interconnectedness of all planning enabled additional efficiencies to be realized back into technical operations.
Altometrixs Case Studies
With over 20 years of diverse experience in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, Altometrixs has helped many companies from strategic planning to contracting to critical process improvements. Check out this representational set of case studies to see how Stephen and his team have impacted small and large companies alike, and hear what people are saying:
The above set of example give you a rough idea of the type of situations where Altometrixs may be able to assist you. With each individual client, our team applies its time-tested methodologies to quickly, cost-effectively and comprehensively upgrade your team and processes towards a high-performing, industry-leading operation.
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