We’ve all heard the stories and read about those once paragons of the corporate world that are now held up as examples of what not to do when the world changes around you: Kodak, Nokia, Blockbuster and ToyRUs all committed corporate suicide by ignoring the seemingly obvious external warning signals, or at least reacted far too late to avoid the quicksand of corporate failure. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20 and we can write case studies and learn from others’ misfortune, but the one thing that remains is the incontrovertible truth that in today’s business environment change is not just relative but absolute. In other words, regardless of the shifting environment there is the relentless and compelling necessity to change anyway. In the battle of the status quo against the future, there is only one winner: the future.

In the battle of the status quo against the future, there is only one winner: the future.

Given the prevailing paradigm then, it’s in our very best interests to plan our businesses astutely. OK, there are no crystal balls, no perfect knowledge and all the usual disclaimers about the future being uncertain, but planning doesn’t mean we rigidly follow the chosen path, disregarding any subsequent opportunities or obstacles. However, astute planning positions your company to evaluate those subsequent opportunities or obstacles, and then to take advantage of them or reject them. So, can we assume then that those ‘failed’ companies didn’t plan or at least plan well enough? It is difficult to see that companies of such scale and heritage just didn’t plan, though perhaps what they planned for wasn’t a new future, merely a future of their status quo. This was what they were good at doing and what had made them successful, and that is easier to comprehend – a company facing into a disrupted market might rightly try and protect its investments in systems, know-how and property by entrenching itself in its current model.

A company facing into a disrupted market might rightly try and protect its investments in systems, know-how and property by entrenching itself in its current model.

But, most of all, planning astutely involves a shrewd deployment of our most important and most elastic asset in our planning armoury: our people. And that elasticity of output is largely governed by how engaged people feel in the future that you are creating on their behalf. Systems, know-how and property do not have desire for Pink’s autonomy, mastery and purpose, therefore as planners we ignore the wants, desires and needs of our people at our peril, but how often do we consider their value and contribution to a future beyond their skills, experience and cost? Having set out our strategic plan what attention do we pay to what it would take to move our people to that new world? And by ‘move’ I mean emotionally rather than physically. For us to resource our plans astutely, knowing the capabilities, ambitions, motivations and potential of our people, and not only understanding who our people are today but also understanding who they want to be tomorrow, is the key to unlocking employee engagement, workforce productivity and competitive advantage.

Understanding who our people are today and understanding who they want to be tomorrow is the key to unlocking employee engagement, workforce productivity and competitive advantage.

Strategic planning constructs a vision for a company’s future. Resource planning is having people in the right place and at the right time to enable that future. Self-motivated, engaged people will contribute more to that future.