Planning tells you what is going to happen, post-mortem tells you what has happened Both planning and post-mortem are essential management tools needed to achieve corporate objectives, as well as to prevent the recurrence of the same mistakes. Planning for change must be the ever-present concern of every executive. At the same time, if events do not happen as planned, a post mortem is to be conducted so as not to repeat the same planning errors.
General Dwight D Eisenhower’s famous quote, “Planning is nothing and planning is everything” was a response to his cynical colleagues, who believed that, because plans never survive first contact with the enemy, planning was a waste of time. In the corporate world, quite often, planning gets thrown out of the window because of mounting short –term pressures to perform and deliver the bottom line.
Those who fail to plan are ultimately planning for a post-mortem. It is not that postmortem is unimportant but companies should always plan to succeed and minimize the occasions to do post-mortem on failed projects. Planning companies outperform those non-planning ones.
Crises and the unexpected changes are no longer a rare, random or abnormal part of our lives. They are built into the very fabric of society and modern-day corporations. While not all crises can be foreseen or even prevented, all of them can be managed if we plan strategically and tactically for what is humanly possible. The impacts of the crises can be minimised if one has a thorough understanding of the basics of crisis planning and management.
Tactical is short term planning whereas strategic is considered long term. Strategic plan looks at the forces in the external environment and responses to them. Tactical planning usually covers one year and is the stepping stone of the strategic plan, which normally covers three to five years.
Having post-implementation analysis or post-mortem is also critical. Just as a postmortem reveals the cause of death, a corporate post-mortem can be extremely revealing. You learn from your past mistakes and get all the feedback. It functions much like a resurrection experience, enabling you to have a new lease of life or second chance. In physical term it is reflection. Without this, the same mistakes may be made all over again and lessons learnt earlier will come to waste. This is why there is a saying that history repeats itself. Two world wars were fought within a short span of less than 30 years. Empires and dynasties fall and rise because of a lack of reflection and committing the very same mistakes that ushered them into power in the first place.
Post-mortem job is dull and boring particularly when it is preceded by overwhelming success. But it is also from reflecting upon your successes that one can avoid the pitfalls of failures in the future. Good managers always find out what has gone awry not so much to apportion blame, but to ensure that the same problems do not surface again. This is why some companies conduct exit interviews with departing staff to ascertain if there are more issues than meet the eye. Even chaos has its patterns. The post-mortem is the process to ascertain the patterns of things that have gone wrong so that these mistakes will not be repeated in the future. In the past, three strikes and you are out.
Today, one strike and you are history. This is because today’s world is highly competitive and you may not have a second chance. Through one mistake, miscalculation or strategic error, your competitors can steal away your customers very quickly. Your margins for errors are very thin as resources are scarce. This amplifies the importance of post-mortem to minimise repeating the mistakes
Dr Mike Teng (DBA, MBA, BEng, FIMechE, FIEE, CEng, PEng, FCMI, FCIM, SMCS) is the author of the best-selling business book “Corporate Turnaround: Nursing a sick company back to health”, in 2002. In 2006, he authored another book entitled, “Corporate Wellness: 101 Principles in Turnaround and Transformation. ” Dr Teng is widely recognized as a turnaround CEO in Asia by the news media. He has 27 years of experience in corporate responsibilities in the Asia Pacific region. Of these, he held Chief Executive Officer’s positions for 17 years in multi-national, local and publicly listed companies. He led in the successful turnaround of several troubled companies. He is currently the Managing Director of a business advisory firm, Corporate Turnaround Centre Pte Ltd, which assists companies on a fast track to financial performance. Dr Teng was the President of the Marketing Institute of Singapore (2000 – 2004), the national body representing some 5000 individual and corporate marke