Effective planning in today’s turbulent landscape carries different responsibilities than traditional strategic planning. In an environment where change occurs as quickly and on such a massive scale, one long-range plan that stretches across three or five years is no longer viable. What is needed now is a way of responding quickly and effectively to adapt as the environment changes. Human Systems Dynamics (HSD) offers a tool for planning that enables that level of adaptability and response.
Adaptive Action Planning is an iterative process using three questions to make sense of the environment to develop choices that move the system forward.
- What? This question gathers data about the environment as well as organizational and individual performance. Customer feedback, competitive market information, and other sources are input in this phase.
- So What? This question is about making meaning of data collected in the first step and identifying possible options for action in light of that information.
- Now What? Brings the process full circle as the system takes action and gathers further data to determine results of steps taken. The data gathered here feeds back into the “What?” question in the next cycle.
In Strategic Adaptive Action, organizations set their goals in the context of their overall purposes. This becomes the over-arching frame for ongoing planning and adaptation at all levels of the organization. Across the organization, individuals and departments engage in short cycles of Adaptive Action as they plot their courses and gather data about performance relative to overall goals and functioning.
Any functional planning and accountability system has to address the work of the overall organization, the effectiveness of individual departments and programs, and the contributions of individuals who make up the organization. The parts of the system are interdependent, supporting success and efficacy at all levels. Effective Strategic Adaptive Action is founded on four principles.
- Individuals’ work across the organization remains in alignment with the work of others in support of the system-wide goals.
- Stakeholder engagement provides input and feedback to inform plans as they are developed and implemented and serve as a driver for refinement and improvement.
- Employees’ reflections about their work, how it contributes to organizational goals, and their own needs for support and learning inform individual and group decision making.
- Individuals accept accountability for achieving organizational outcomes.