OPERATING PLAN WORKSHOPS
In 2006, we made two major changes. We added a strategic component to the workshop. We also pushed most of the workshop development to the units.
In terms of a strategic component, we added a column to the existing workshop template that held the activities the unit needed to undertake to successfully implement its long-term strategic objectives. The strategic component proved unsuccessful for three major reasons. First, we found that units without a completed long-term strategy did not find this worthwhile. Second, the shift from the operating plan in the morning to the strategic plan in the afternoon proved too mentally taxing. Workshop participants tend to be less effective late in the afternoon due to the mental focus required in the workshop, and the transition to the longer- term view in the afternoon seemed to make this afternoon lapse worse. Finally, we found the extra column in the strategic template unnecessary. Units preferred to use the standard workshop template for both operational and strategic issues. For all future strategic workshops, we used only the standard template.
For the 2006 Operating Plan workshops, we found it very time consuming for facilitators to build each individual workshop. To build each workshop, the two facilitators interviewed the general manager, the unit CFO, and several other unit management team members. They would then take the unit's key operating plan objectives and compile the templates by adding the risks and risk treatments based on their interpretation of the interviews. Between the interviews and the workshop compilation, it could take as much as a person-week to build a workshop. As facilitators typically had very senior positions, this did not represent an effective use of their time. This time-consuming process would greatly limit the number of workshops that we could have, unless we could find a better solution.
At this time, the company was moving to increasingly standardized planning tools. The units could use these tools to develop their own workshops, with minimal guidance and support of the workshop facilitators. This aligned well with our objective to simplify the workshop development process and aided us in pushing much of the workshop development to the unit. We developed a PowerPoint presentation that outlined the process, as summarized in Exhibit 3.5.
This new approach greatly reduced the time to build a workshop. By having initiative owners confirm the definition of the objectives, adding what they viewed as the major four or five risks and risk treatments, we not only reduced the time necessary to build a workshop, but we also improved the quality of the workshops. The latter was achieved because the facilitators no longer had to interpret what they had heard in the workshop. Instead, the actual owners populated this data, which the management team validated in the workshop. This had the additional benefit of increasing the ownership of the process within the unit.