Beat thrash for good: 4 organizational planning challenges and their solutions

Caeleigh MacNeil contributor headshotCaeleigh MacNeil
March 18th, 2024
5 min read
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Beat thrash for good: 4 organizational planning challenges and solutions
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Mobilizing an entire organization is hard. Processes often involve many stakeholders and workflows, while teams work in isolation with their own tools and collaboration methods. As a result, trying to execute your business plan can feel like turning a massive tanker ship—slow, clunky, and inefficient. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We’ve taken a deep dive into four common organizational planning challenges so you can arm yourself with the right solutions for each one. That means no more thrash and confusion. Instead, you can keep every team aligned, even as you pivot to meet changing business needs. 

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1. It’s hard to coordinate plans across departments

Today’s workers collaborate 50 percent more than they did just 12 years ago, but companies still struggle to achieve their plans. In fact, 48 percent of all organizations fail to meet at least half of their strategic targets, even while their workforce collaborates more than ever. 

According to research from The Work Innovation Lab, a key culprit is collaborative overload—spending too much time on status updates, attending meetings, and responding to emails and messages. Collaborative overload happens when leaders index too much on collaboration, thinking more is always better. As a result, they overlook the importance of coordination, which lets teams work independently using pre-defined frameworks and ways of working. 

Organizational planning requires a lot of coordination. Teams can meet and discuss plans endlessly, but nothing happens without a structured process. So if you’re finding it difficult to implement strategic plans across your business, look for ways to build in more structure. Here’s where to start: 

The solution

  • Create a predefined planning process. Lay out a step-by-step guide for how leaders should create and share plans each year during annual planning—including key steps like meetings, requesting budget, securing approvals, and communicating plans across teams. Having a predefined process helps teams check every box during planning, without missing any key steps. 

  • Organize around goals. Goals are a north star to guide employees as they navigate choices like which projects to prioritize and how to allocate team resources. When you clearly communicate goals, your leadership team doesn’t have to spend lots of time and effort guiding workers in the right direction. Instead, everyone knows what’s important to the business and what they should focus on. Many companies use objectives and key results (OKRs) to achieve this. OKRs follow this simple but flexible format: “I will (objective) as measured by (key result).” 

  • Centralize coordination. Planning becomes even more complex when teams use different tools and processes to accomplish their work. Not only do stakeholders need to coordinate timelines and dependencies, they also need to spend extra time sharing and finding information—a perfect recipe for delays and miscommunication. Instead, bring every team’s work into one collaboration platform. This simplifies the planning process by allowing all functions to communicate, view plans, and track work in one place. 

Case study: Goals at Asana

Asana’s executive team sets business objectives, but individual teams create key results to align with those objectives. Then, each team member sets their own key results that ladder up into broader team KRs. This approach gives employees a target to aim for but still lets them set—and own—their specific key performance indicators.

2. You can’t pivot fast enough to meet changing business needs

Business is full of unknowns. It’s hard to predict when the financial market will change, when competitors will change their strategy, or when other unforeseen risks will threaten to derail your plans. A big part of organizational planning is the ability to pivot when the unexpected happens. But while 60% of companies believe adaptability has become more important in the last ten years, only 43% of employees say their organization is good at managing change. 

Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way. While pivoting your business strategy is hard, these strategies can help teams smoothly—and swiftly—meet changing business needs. 

The solution

  • Create a predefined intake and change request process. Annual planning only happens once a year. Between then new requests and initiatives will come up, and you need a process in place to evaluate and prioritize those new ideas against your existing objectives. Building a standardized intake process helps your company stay flexible and adjust throughout the year. By clarifying the next steps and owners for every new request, teams can move faster and make better decisions. 

  • Create clear decision-making structures. When change happens, someone needs to decide how to move forward. Plan ahead and create a process for how, when, and who should make decisions. One option is the RAPID® framework, which identifies five key roles for major decisions: Recommend, Agree, Perform, Input, and Decide. We recommend using one universal framework for all your big choices, so everyone follows the same steps and makes high-quality choices. 

  • Build flexible projects and processes. Flexibility is essential to meet changing business needs. Instead of building plans with static documents and communication tools, bring them into a single collaboration platform. That way if you need to change your approach, you can easily update and communicate processes across your organization. For example, imagine you need to ramp up creative production using an agency. If your creative production process already lives in one work management platform, you can quickly update handoffs, automations, and owners across your entire company. 

3. You don’t have reliable data to track goal performance

Good data is essential to keep business goals on track. Otherwise, it’s impossible to know when you need to shift resources or adjust your strategy mid-flight. Despite the importance of reliable analytics, over 80% of companies rely on stale data for decision-making. According to a study by Dimensional Research, nearly nine out of ten companies report that they’re unable to pull real-time insights from their legacy systems to make smart business decisions. 

Lack of real-time data puts company strategies at risk. But these tactics can help you gather more robust analytics to make better decisions, faster. 

The solution

  • Centralize goal and work tracking. Monitoring goal progress requires you to know which tasks and milestones have been completed, which are overdue, and which are coming up. It’s nearly impossible to do this when teams track work in different places (or if they don’t track work at all). Instead, using a work management platform lets you capture every task, milestone, dependency, and due date in one place—making it easy to pull reports and analyze how much progress you’ve made. 

  • Link your analytics tools. Research from The Work Innovation Lab shows that when all employees use the same work management software to report and track progress, they’re 60% more likely to feel very productive. Instead of jumping between different analytics tools, choose a work management platform that integrates with apps like Salesforce and Tableau. That way you can get the full benefits of multiple robust analytics platforms while still centralizing data in one place. 

4. It’s hard to allocate resources across different teams

Every plan needs resources to run smoothly. But without big-picture insight into what teams are working on, it’s hard to staff the most business-critical initiatives—and make sure work stays on track. Despite the importance of visibility, a report from ProSymmetry found that 41% of respondents struggle with visibility into available resources. 

Lack of visibility happens when teams don’t document exactly what people are working on, and at what time, across every program. Instead, they rely on back-and-forth communication with managers and leaders to determine availability, which is never an exact science. As a result it’s hard to accurately forecast what resources will be available for upcoming initiatives, let alone understand current team capacities. This is a big problem—research shows that the biggest contributors to poor resource management are lack of adequate forecasting and capacity planning. 

If you’re struggling with resource management, these strategies can help you get the full picture of resources across your organization—so you can make sure the most important initiatives are properly staffed. 

The solution

  • Track how long work takes. This is essential for creating accurate resourcing plans. Use a time tracking feature or app to document time requirements for different types of work, like building a new web feature or drafting a proposal. With that data, you can measure how actual timelines compare to the initial estimates in your organizational plan and adjust resources accordingly. 

  • Monitor team workloads. To effectively allocate resources, you need to see at a glance what teams are working on, now and in the future. Create a system to document what’s on everyone’s plate and what new projects are on the horizon. This is where work management software can really shine. Since all work is documented in one place, a work management platform provides a complete view of how teams are staffed and what resources are available across your business. As a result, you can quickly shift workloads and prioritize the most high-impact work. 

Streamline your organizational planning process

Organizational planning doesn’t have to be so hard. Learn how Asana can help you get total visibility into the status of work, so you can make the right decisions—fast. 

3 ways to transform your enterprise project management

Watch a live demo and Q&A session to help you streamline goal-setting, accelerate annual planning, and automate how teams intake strategic work.

3 ways to transform your enterprise project management

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