Agility in the office
The author is the head of fol:in at the JoongAng Ilbo.
A friend who works at a big corporation was working late again. The company is very busy because it’s the business report submission season. They make market predictions for next year, set up key strategies and simulate monthly revenue and earnings. “That must be hard,” I said and the friend nodded. “It didn’t work this year, so would it work for next year? I am only making up the report because I can’t simply say I’ll do my best.”
Is everyone working for companies going through this at the end of the year? Surprisingly, many companies don’t consider annual business plans important. Two years ago, Park Se-heon, then-HR director for Woowa Bros, appeared at the JoongAng Ilbo’s fol:in conference and said, “We don’t put much emphasis on annual business plans. In 2017, Uber started its food delivery intermediary service in Korea. We didn’t expect it earlier that year. How can we predict the competition and set up a business plan?”
Recently, he moved to Daangn Market, a start-up for trading used items, as vice president of HR. Is Daangn Market different? “I didn’t predict the coronavirus crisis and I had no idea the company would grow so fast despite the pandemic. Looking a year ahead is not important. You need to study the movements of the customers and constantly modify the direction,” said Park.
Park’s not the only one. Chang Eun-ji, CEO of Emerging Leadership Interventions, who writes a series on agile ways to work for fol:in, says that most companies spend several months writing up their annual business plan, knowing that it is only an annual event. If so, should you not set up a plan then? Nope. The point is not to get too far ahead or get too specific, as they are bound to be wrong.
“It is important to have a direction in business. But if you make mid- and long-term plans, it will be harder to respond to the changing environment. Rather than spending time on writing up a meticulous plan, you should focus on execution,” says Chang.
Cho Seung-bin, CEO of Congruent Agile, who writes the series together, advises that the shorter the cycle of a plan, the better it is. “Rather than an annual plan, set up a monthly plan and quickly adjust according to how things are moving,” he says.
What is an example of an organization that is moving swiftly? Cho points to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KCDA). It is investigating the Covid-19 situation in real time and presents new plans. In the age of uncertainty, shouldn’t businesses do the same? If your boss pressures you to make a detailed business plan for next year, how about putting this column on your boss’s desk? Good luck!