Looking At All The Data

On a recent passage delivering our sailboat back to the U.S. from the Caribbean. On the leg between Bermuda and Montauk, the weather was mostly calm; a motoring rather than a sailing trip. The last day off Long Island there was considerable fog. At nightfall, we were in Block Island Sound. As we turned from a North to a West heading into Gardners Bay the weather quickly turned ugly with lightning popping all around; in addition to thick fog. Our radar showed only orange on the entire screen indicating we were in a massive thunderstorm. We could not identify landmasses or any other vessels. Fortunately, we knew where we were via our navigation software and by sighting buoys in our binoculars. We were hoping no one else ventured out that night so we were less concerned with other vessel traffic.

I had been monitoring the weather constantly as we approached the coast so I wondered afterward why the storm took me by surprise. I realized that I had been looking mostly at wind speeds and directions; two important pieces of data for sailors. What I failed to look at was data that would have shown me the likelihood of thunderstorms in the area that night (i.e., the C.A.P.E. index map for weather buffs). It might not have made a difference in our itinerary, but it would have been nice to have been better prepared for the storm.
When undertaking Business Performance Improvement projects for clients, I always want to look at more than just one set of data, say P&L data. That tells us how we are currently performing, not how we are going to perform. I also want to look at their current strategy and business processes and resulting plans. That includes:

  • Analyzing its internal strengths and weaknesses;
  • Identifying upcoming threats and new opportunities;
  • Developing a current strategic plan;
  • Developing an operating plan that supports the strategic plan; and
  • Developing a financial plan and budget to support the operating plan.

I often find in underperforming companies that they have poor or no strategic and business planning processes and documented plans.
If you’re Company is only looking at monthly P&Ls, that is a good start for short-term controls. However, it may be missing the larger picture if it is not looking at a broader data set of strategic, business and financial plans. You might not want to change direction and head back out to sea, but you might at least want to be prepared for a storm.

Feel free to contact me if I can assist you to with reviewing your strategic and business planning processes and plans to identify Business Performance Improvement opportunities.

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