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Stone Arch Organization Development, LLC

7648 147th Terrace

Savage, MN 55378


Phone:  952.855.4096


Short-Term or Long-Term Planning:  Which One Should We Focus On?
By Scott Morrell

The Answer is Both! 

When we focus on Short-term planning we experience positive outcomes such as: action oriented outcomes, immediate needs are met and positive momentum is experienced. When we focus on Long-term planning we experience positive outcomes such as: we have an eye on the future, we minimize surprises and we anticipate possibilities for exploration.

However, if we only focus on Short-term planning or only on Long-term planning, we compromise performance in a leader, team or an entire organization. When we recognize both are essential and develop “both/and” thinking, we experience faster results, more sustainable performance and cultivate the entire organization. Therefore, we ought to teach our stakeholders to focus on Short-term AND Long-term planning for the sustainable results sought.
    An Actionable Road Map
    Consider that there is an active energy system (like gravity), acting upon us at all times, constantly pushing and pulling us between these valuable tensions (i.e. Short-Term planning AND Long-Term planning). These polarities are unavoidable, indestructible and unsolvable. How then shall we make sense of this reality?

    Most people are visual learners. Graphically seeing the polarities with their upside and downsides is a good start. However, identifying measurable Action Steps and Early Warning Signs, and assessing the performance of the polarities over time are vital.

    I recommend organizations start with measuring (empirically) how well they are presently leveraging each polarity of importance. Quick assessment results allow leaders and teams to see, with multiple stakeholder input, how well the organization is performing on each pole.

    Take Action

    In order to experience both upsides (e.g. the value of both Short-Term and Long-Term planning), action steps should be created to define SMART goals: who? what? where? and when? These accountability measures help leaders, teams or an entire organization to mobilize the behaviors needed to focus on that pole. When living in the upside of both poles at the same time a greater purpose is achieved. In other words, if we maximize measurable behaviors in Short-Term AND Long-Term planning, the organization will outperform organizations that only emphasis one pole over time. 



    Action Steps for Short-Term Planning

    1. We create a 30 day performance dashboard to track revenues and expenses.

    2. We allocate an agreed upon set of funds each month to “opportunity ventures” that are outside our planned budget.

    3. We complete an action planning template for 30/60/90 day objectives.

    Action Steps for Long-Term Planning

    1. We hold annual planning conferences (retreats) in each of our business units.

    2. There is a one week “reflection period” instituted for all project team decisions.

    3. We set annual budgets with a 5% overage to account for unexpected expenses.

    Warning Signs

    How would we know if one pole becomes more emphasized at the neglect of the other pole? Early warning signs can point to the imbalance; they diagnose where attention is needed.  Early warning signs are also measurable things we can count for the purpose of informing the leader, team or organization they are trending downward on one pole.



    Early Warning Signs: Short-Term Planning Outcomes

    1.  We have less than 3% of our annual reserved in cash reserves.

    2.  Positions in our strategic planning department go unfulfilled for more than 60 days.

    3. We cut the quarterly business reviews to one day because of the budget crunch in any two consecutive quarters.

    Early Warning Signs: Long-Term Planning Outcomes 

    1.  Increasing customer complaints about not being responsive to their emerging needs.

    2.  We are not “first to market” with at least one new product in each calendar year.

    3.  Any one indicators on our performance dashboard is “yellow'.

    There is No Mystery:  A Five Step Process

    What's described above is the first two steps in a  5-Step Process.  This 5-Step Process allows an organization to fully diagnose and prescribe behaviors desired to achieve a competitive advantage and/or effective leadership.

    1.  SEEING - See an individual, team or organization and their Polarities more completely

    2.  MAPPING - Create quality and/or assessment ready Polarity Maps

    3.  ASSESSING - Assess how well key Polarities are being leveraged

    4.  LEARNING - Make meaning of assessment results from diverse stakeholder perspectives

    5.  LEVERAGING - Achieve the greater purpose of each Polarity

    Stone Arch Organization Development has an innovative tool, Polarity Assessment for Continuity and TransformationTM (PACT), available to help with mapping your Short-Term and Long-Term realities.