Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Plan or Perish……….

More often than not, business ventures founder on the shoals of poor or altogether absent planning.

Those that succeed initially but subsequently come to grief often do so because they fail to recognise that planning is continuous process not just a one-off up- front exercise.

In another life I designed a university management programme aimed at training managers for the surf industry. Don’t laugh! While this might sound like a frivolous exercise it was anything but. The surf industry in Australia alone is a $9 billion industry and I was working with the likes of Billabong, Quiksilver and Rip Curl to train the next generation of managers to take over from the baby boomer founders of these companies.

Surf companies had read the market beautifully and were on the crest of a wave of success. They were also skilled at monitoring and regularly interrogating the market place and knew that the brave new second generation world they were about to enter required a new approach and a new skill set.  Not to gear up for that would certainly see their demise. In the event one of the companies was too slow to adjust and has seen a dramatic fall in sales and a halving of its share price. A takeover is mooted.

Things are no different in other endeavours – including health care management training. Three things that strike me in the generation of new training programs are:

·         The amount of work that is undertaken with limited market research having been done;
·         The, perhaps related, fact that courses, and good courses at that, are introduced and experience limited uptake; and
·         That a process of evaluation and market monitoring is not built into programs from the outset ie as part of the planning process.

When I raise these issues in discussion I am usually told that the programme is in its infancy and that the questions of evaluation and market monitoring will be introduced at a later stage.

I am of the school that believes that the way in which you intend to determine the success and on-going relevance of a programme or project is built in at the outset, lest part way through your journey you find you are travelling in the wrong direction or, worse still, you complete your journey only to find you have arrived at the wrong place.

For me this applies whether you are selling surfboards, training surf industry managers or introducing a management programme for health care executives.

I can tell you that in the year of its introduction the Diploma of Sport Management (Surfing Studies) was voted the ‘sexiest’ course of the year by one of the high circulation media outlets. I have no idea how that was measured but this award drove the marketing for the course for the next couple of years.

I doubt that a health care executive managers course is likely to be the next to be honoured in this way.

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