December 2, 2014
Congratulations! You and your team have just drafted the best annual plan draft ever. The strategies look tight. The programs are innovative. The P&L meets ambitious targets with just enough cushion to help with contingencies. And yet…
You have an uneasy feeling that you might not be able to actually deliver this plan. If you are like a lot of leaders with big ideas, stretch targets, and aggressive timelines, you have just committed to do a lot more with the same or fewer resources.
Now is the time to make sure you have the resources to support your top priorities…and flag where significant gaps exist in funding, staffing, or enabling technologies and systems. If you identify these gaps now, you can take mitigating actions to identify resource needs so you can deliver on your plan.
Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be.Jack Welch
Five Steps to Identifying and Addressing Resource Gaps
Instead of tackling an exhaustive bottoms-up resource analysis, we recommend an accelerated top-down approach to quickly spot your biggest resource risks and determine the best way to address them.
At Catalyst Strategies, we follow these five steps:
- List the Initiatives and Map them to a Strategic Priority. Start a spreadsheet that lists your initiatives down the left-hand column. In the second column, tag each initiative with the most relevant strategic priority (you’ll likely find that many initiatives address more than one strategic priority, just pick the strategic priority that it will impact most). Don’t forget to include the ongoing programs, activities, and services that your organization maintains from year to year. Whether it’s a new initiative or ongoing activity, allocate an operating budget, an investment budget (e.g., for new systems) if applicable, and the list of staff assigned to them.
- Establish the Timing. For each initiative, estimate the start and end date for the work—not when it is deployed in the marketplace. Understanding the timing and duration is essential for exposing the urgency of any resource issues. It will also help identify if and when resources can be redeployed from one initiative to another.
- Assess the Risk. Chances are that your managers have already developed a sense of which initiatives are underfunded (in the operating budget or investment dollars), understaffed, or where other enabling resources are missing. Flag those initiatives and classify the type of risk they represent, such as:
- “insufficient funding”
- “insufficient staffing”
- “requires special expertise”
- “missing technology or infrastructure”
Once the type of risk has been identified, quantify the risk with details such as size of the budget or staffing shortfalls.
- Mitigate the Risk. Now that you’ve identified the initiatives at risk, your managers need to recommend the most effective and efficient solution. With a staffing shortfall example, options can range from accelerating an in-plan hire, adding a new FTE, outsourcing, hiring a contractor, delegating to an agency, delaying the initiative to later in the year when resources open up, or delaying to the next fiscal year. In several cases, incremental budget dollars will be required to fund the solution. You will probably end up with a daunting list of incremental resources needs. Remember that in many cases the same solution—like a new hire—will solve the resource issues for several initiatives. So be sure to “net out” these overlaps to reduce the cost of incremental resources you need.
- Prioritize! This is where the rubber hits the road. In some cases the need for supplemental resources is blindingly obvious and the financial justification is clear. In other cases you can change the timing of an initiative or cleverly tap other resources without incremental spending. But there will still be a handful of initiatives lacking resources. This is when you must have the guts to prioritize your critical initiatives so they get the support they need, and to cut back less important programs. It can be painful, but it’s better to deal with it now.
Nobody said a resource assessment is particularly fun or glamorous. But without it you run the risk of missing the mark on your plan, incurring unexpected delays, overworking your staff, hurting morale and, ultimately, damaging your credibility and reputation within the organization. Avoid such hazards and boost your confidence in your own plan by taking these steps before you lock in your final plan for the year.
Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.Winston Churchill