Marketing and planning priorities: Can we get them right?

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One of our previous annual planning meetings.

I admit that I tend to want to spend more time planning our (now) biannual international vacation than reviewing the business and marketing plans for the coming year. I can rationalize the advantage of vacation planning well in advance. It takes a year or so to accumulate enough Aeroplan points, and these must be “spent” 11 months in advance to snare the scarce business class (or, this time around, first-class) tickets, taking the travel costs from $15,000 to $750 each.

But the main reason I enjoy the travel planning more than the business planning is because it is fun, and leads to a tangible and predictable experience. The business planning process has, in the past, tended to produce unrealistic projections or more of the same — the rows of financial numbers and the thought-out business plan (designed in consultation with employees, key contractors and — in the past — outside consultants) has tended to be ‘implemented’ but without much joy. We’ve come up with ambitious — and rational — goals, but these seem to falter on the shoals of day-to-day reality.

“Wait” — you might say — are we following the rule books or deviating from them? At least one previous consultant, who arrived on the scene during a major crisis, has indicated we have been following best practices — and he has shared some of our business model/systems with other clients.

I think of these thoughts as the quiet Labour Day weekend is the final break before a rather busy fall season. Our annual business planning meeting, for example, occurs in early October, and we’ve set the venue and invitations, and now need to get the agenda in place.

We need to work within constraints — a key employee, for family reasons, cannot attend the full two-day meeting, and I’ll be returning from a transcontinental journey the evening before the meeting. We’re trying to build in some real forward-thinking stuff into the schedule, but equally need to have a pragmatic and immediate structure. But how can we really get things to work well?

Achhh. The only good news, I suppose, is that social scientists have determined there is a difference between achievement and excellence and our own perceptions of success. (The more we really know, the less we believe we know.) And they’ve also determined that luck maybe more important than the motivational pundits express. See this article for some thoughtful observations on the challenge of inequality and achievement. 

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