Slogan planning versus operational planning by Carl Sylvestre

Great planning has its benefits. It is that road map to pull out when the road is dark and we have lost our way. If done right it is a safety net. It allows us to communicate as a team. A mutual understanding has been reached. Yet, I have come to the conclusion that with many organizations there are two types of plans. There is the slogan plan and the operational or action plan. The road between these two is wide and confusing them may even negate the concept of planning in the first place. A slogan plan gives planning a bad name and unfortunately most of us are stuck using a slogan plan.

Planning is a process of thinking about and organizing the activities required to achieve a goal. Most of us create a daily plan even if it is never formalized as such. We have set goals to achieve and a series of tasks to get us there. Organizational managers share these goals with a team and the plan is the reference point for effective communications.

In the process of communications, short cuts are often needed and slogans are handy tools to get us there. A slogan plan is made up of key ideas stated succinctly and appears well on its way to be accomplished. For example, it could say that ‘by next year we will serve 1,000 more individuals and for that the community will be a better place.’ This is often accompanied by a general presentation of great ideas or slogans, the outcomes, testimonials and all the things that might make a potential funder go “wow,” or at least return your call. What happens next is that everyone is on board with this plan and off we go. The message has been communicated and some people have their responsibilities laid out to make it happen.

Tragically to many, this is the end of the planning process. We are heading into a direction led by slogans. What we need is to discuss step by step the activities to get us there. Many managers often feel that this is not needed. The process of getting from point A to B becomes a mute one.

The presence of a well-developed plan can help put everyone on the same page and to give each the freedom to take bold steps to move forward. How else will you have a matrix to evaluate as to where you are in the process? How do you determine when directions need to be changed? The slogan plan has the purpose of announcing the goal and the designating the finish line. All the work that often takes place in between is missing. However, in order to get anything done, the focus should be on key details. Without an operational plan, actions will certainly be delayed. The slogan plan is something that is talked about and not acted upon.