Without fail, organizations begin with plan.  The annual plan, strategic plan, project plan tied to budgets and full of targets.  It is a top-down way to do business.  The smart ones, after all, are the ones at the top.  They make the big bucks to make the hard decisions and set direction.  But this approach is destroying any chance of success.

The reality is most businesses work this way and most would tell you that it would be foolish to do anything without a plan.  But they discount knowledge . . . and I am not talking about the diploma that managers have on their walls that they got for being active in academia and social fraternities and sororities.

Nor am I talking about the “knowledge” gained from those management reports that waste paper and time to produce. Those management reports lack context.

I am talking about the knowledge one gets from being where service is provisioned between customer and staff.  You see and hear things that you can’t get from a report or diploma.  It is real life drama played out before your eyes.

Going and getting knowledge allows you to see the dysfunction that is created by the last plan you put into place.  This then requires you put together another plan to get rid of the alleviate the carnage of the last plan.

The damage of decisions managers made away from the work by implementing targets, costs constraints, improvement plans, technology projects and much more.  All these things tend to increase costs, reduce service and morale and make a mockery of common sense.

Worse, improvement really requires no plan but to get knowledge.  So all those long meetings and binders made (that sit on the executives shelf to collect dust are just another form of waste.  Large sums are evaporated in this manner.

Going to listen to customers and front-line staff helps managers understand why the systems they built waste money, and sub-optimize systems.  Business improvement depends on their showing up to see for themselves.  It also requires watching and understanding and not fixing until one gains a systems perspective of the performance.

Managers will find why performance is the way that it is by asking good questions about purpose, customer demand, flow and the system conditions (work design, roles, measures, technology, etc.) that drive performance.  They can then more easily correlate the management thinking that underlies this performance.

So, if you are required to plan, begin first by understanding the organization as a system.  Knowledge is easily gotten as long as it is done before the planning session.

Leave me a comment. . . share your opinion!  Click on comments below.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.