Mega Planning: Practical Tools for Organizational Success


Roger Kaufman

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    My continuing education has me noticing an increasing number of professionals who have found that there indeed must be formal linkages among what organizations use, do, produce, and deliver. They must also add value for external clients and society.

    I wish to thank many of these professionals for helping me to continuously improve my ideas, formulations, and writings, including:

    Ryan Watkins, Nova Southeastern University, and Doug Leigh, Office for Needs Assessment & Planning at Florida State University, who have not only critiqued my work and helped me think things through but have published articles and chapters with me on evolving concepts and related research and have also co-developed exercises, some of which are included in this book;

    Leon Sims, Scott Schaffer, and John Parker, of Florida State University's Office for Needs Assessment & Planning;

    The faculty and students of the Educational Research and Instructional Systems program at Florida State University;

    William Swart, Professor of Engineering Management and Dean, College of Engineering & Technology, Old Dominion University;

    Clients who provide the opportunity, platform, and feedback to subject all of this to continuous improvement;

    Neil Crispo and Florida Tax Watch;

    Larry Lipsitz, Editor of Educational Technology Publishers (who had the foresight and conviction to support the entire field and help develop it);

    Members and staff of the International Society for Performance Improvement; Joe Eckenrode and Technomic Publishers, who have provided a publishing forum for previous books;

    American Society for Training and Development staff;

    Sage Publications and Corwin Press, who have made several of my books available to a broad range of interested professionals. Of special note are Sage's Harry Briggs, who was early to commit to this book's predecessor, Strategic Planning Plus, and who is bringing this book to you, and Marquita Flemming, who first signed this book with faith in me and the topic;

    Trish Dreher and Christin Hernet, who prepared many of the graphics and fought off computer viruses in the production drama, and Jean Van Dyke, who did final manuscript preparation.

    The list of mentors would be very long indeed-so many have attempted to make me smarter than I really am-but I must include Leon Lessinger, Ted Blau, the late Harold Crosby and Bob Corrigan, Roger Addison, Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan, Paula MacGillis, Steve Duncan, Dale Brethower, Don Triner, JC Fikes, Dave Feldman, Bob Gagne, Harold Greenwald, Joe Harless, Dale Lick, Ken Modesitt, Fred Nickles, Mariano Bernardez, Caesar Naples, Wess Roberts, Tom Tinney, Mel Stith, Steve Slepin, Jerry Herman, John Lombardi, Doug Zahn, Hugh Oakley-Browne, Peter Sharp, Jane McCann, Phil Hanford, Don Watts, Doug Hinchliffe, and Ronald Forbes, to name but a few. A very few.

    But most central of all is my wife Jan, who has provided both the feedback and partnership that makes me more than I could possibly dream of being without her.

    Introduction: An “Owner's Manual” for Benefiting from This Book

    Let's get right to the point. Defining and then achieving sustained organizational success is possible. It relies on two basic elements:

    • A societal value-added “frame of mind” or paradigm: Your perspective about your organization, people, and our world; it is the “paradigm”1 you use to understand reality
    • Pragmatic and basic tools
    The Societal Value-Added Perspective and Frame of Mind

    The required frame of mind, your guiding paradigm, is simple, straightforward, and sensible. It is to have a primary concern for adding value for external clients and society. From this societal value-added frame, everything one uses, does, produces, and delivers is linked to achieving positive societal results. This societal frame of reference, or paradigm, I call the Mega level of planning. Mega Planning has societal value added as its primary focus and perspective.

    A central question that each and every organization should ask and answer is this:

    If your organization is the solution, what's the problem?

    This fundamental proposition is central to thinking and planning strategically: Mega Planning. It represents a shift from the usual focus only on oneself and one's organization to making certain you also add value to external clients and society. Yes, external clients and society. This basic question, directly or indirectly, will reappear throughout this book, for it keeps ends and means in perspective and better assures your success through making a useful contribution outside your organization where you and your clients live and work.

    An Overview of the Basic Concepts and Tools for Mega Planning

    There are three basic tools, guides actually, that will be helpful to you as you define and achieve organizational success. I will define each in much greater detail later, but for our entry into Mega Planning and strategic thinking, here is the short introduction to these three guides:

    Guide 1: Organizational Elements Model

    The Organizational Elements Model (OEM) defines and links what any organization uses, does, produces, and delivers with external client and societal value added. For each Element, there is an associated level of planning. Successful planning links and relates all of the Organizational Elements, for each organization has external clients for which it must add value. Measurable value.

    Here, in Table I.12 are the Organizational Elements along with the levels of planning to which each relates.

    TABLE I.1 The Three Levels of Planning, and a Brief Description of Each
    Name of the Organizational ElementName of the Level of Planning and FocusBrief Description
    OutcomesMegaResults and their consequences for external clients and society
    OutputsMacroThe results an organization can or does deliver outside itself
    ProductsMicroThe building-block results produced within the organization
    ProcessesProcessThe ways, means, activities, procedures, and methods used internally
    InputsInputThe human, physical, and financial resources an organization can or does use
    NOTE: These elements are also useful for defining the basic questions every organization must ask and answer as provided in Figure I.2.
    Guide 2: Six-Step Problem-Solving Model

    A six-step problem-solving model, shown in Figure I.1, includes (1.0) identifying problems based on needs, (2.0) determining detailed solution requirements and identifying (but not yet selecting) solution alternatives, (3.0) selecting solutions from among alternatives, (4.0) implementation, (5.0) evaluation, and (6.0) continuous improvement (at each and every step).

    Figure I.1. The six-step problem-solving process: A process for identifying and resolving problems (and identifying opportunities).

    Each time you want to identify problems and opportunities and systematically get from current results and consequences to desired ones, use the six-step process.

    Guide 3: Six Critical Success Factors

    Figure I.2 shows the six critical success factors (CSFs)3 that set the vital framework of this book and for Mega Planning. Unlike conventional “critical success factors,” these are factors for successful planning, not just for the things that an organization must get done to meet its mission. These are for Mega Planning, regardless of the type or size of the organization.

    Figure I.2. The six critical success factors for Mega-level strategic planning (and strategic thinking).

    To be successful—to do and apply Mega Planning—you have to realize that yesterday's methods and results often are not appropriate for tomorrow. Most planning experts agree that the past is only prologue, and tomorrow must be crafted through new patterns of perspectives, tools, and results.4 The tools and concepts for meeting the new realities of society, organizations, and people are linked to each of the six CSFs.

    The first five chapters are devoted to detailing one or more of the CSFs. Provided in these chapters are the basic concepts and rational for each area as well as the appropriate tools for achieving each, such tools as needs assessment, needs analysis, costs-consequences analysis, system analysis, quality management/continuous improvement, evaluation, and methods-means analysis.

    The details and how-to's for each of the three guides are also provided. There are a number of applications for the guides. They should be considered as forming an integrated set of tools—like a fabric—instead of only each one on its own.5

    In order to apply the guides and concepts provided early in the book, a Mega Planning framework is provided later. This framework, in turn, has three phases: Scoping, Planning, and Implementation/Continuous Improvement. From this framework, specific tools and methods are provided to do Mega Planning. It is not complex, really. If you simply use the three guides, you will be able to put it all together.

    When doing Mega planning, you and your associates will ask and answer the questions shown in Figure I.3.

    Figure I.3. The basic questions every organization must ask and answer.

    A “yes” to all questions will lead you toward Mega Planning and allow you to prove that you have added value, something that is becoming increasingly important. These questions relate to Guide 1. It defines each Organizational Element in terms of its label and the question each addresses.

    Use these guides throughout this book, for they provide the conceptual structure. They are Mega Planning guides.

    Mega Planning is proactive. Many approaches to organizational improvement wait for problems to happen and then scramble to respond. Of course, like true love, the course of organizational success hardly every runs smoothly. But there is a temptation to react to problems and never take the time to plan so that surprises are fewer and success is defined—before problems spring up—and then systematically achieved. Figure I.4 provides a job aid to consider any time you start organizational planning.

    Figures I.4a, b, c. An algorithm for choosing what to accomplish before electing to attempt to make things better.
    Figure I.4b.
    Figure I.4c.
    Major Topics of This Book

    Here are some of the major topics to be covered. And these will also be related one to the others, with applications provided for each. The topics are popular and important, but often, in the conventional literature, they are not precisely defined and usually not interrelated:

    • Strategic thinking: An approach to any and all improvement with a primary focus on societal value added.
    • Strategic planning plus: Another name for Mega planning. It is strategic planning that incorporates strategic thinking and links everything that is used, done, produced, and delivered to Mega: to societal value added.7
    • Quality management: The important and useful process, built on the insights and contributions of Deming and Juran, that involves the continuous improvement of what organizations use, do, and produce. It is often termed Total Quality Management (TQM).
    • Quality management plus: A process for continuous improvement (or TQM) that includes societal (Mega) value added to the array of ends and means to be improved.
    • Needs assessment: The identification of needs as gaps between current and required results (not gaps in resources or inputs or processes) and placing those needs in priority order on the basis of the costs to meet the needs as compared to the costs to ignore them.8
    • Needs analysis: Based on the needs assessment that identified needs (in terms of gaps between current and desired/required results), needs analysis diagnoses the causes for the gaps in results and then identifies possible ways and means (but not selecting them) to meet the needs, that is, close the gaps in results.9
    • Benchmarking: Comparing one's processes and results with a standard, usually the processes of another organization, in order to improve one's own procedures and results.
    • Re engineering: An improvement process that asks “If this current process, procedure, activity, method, unit, and or operation did not exist, would we create it? And if we did re-create it, would it be exactly as it now is?” Reengineering questions can and should be answered about organizational means, and ends as well as for entire organizations and for communities and societies.
    • Continuous improvement/evaluation: Evaluation compares results with intentions. Continuous improvement uses evaluation data to constantly and consistently improve. Both are reactive in that they build on data and existing systems.10 Data should be used for improving and fixing, never for blaming.
    • Value added: The measurable increase of the value and worth of any resource and/or process/methods/activities in terms of results that happen as a consequences of that resource and/or process/methods/activities being applied. This calculation is often called costs-consequences analysis. Based on what you give, and what you get back, indicators are derived for estimating value added. Your organization has to add value to all, both inside and outside the organization. Calculating this type of return-on-investment is central to proving worth.
    • Two bottom lines: There are two ways of measuring value added: a conventional bottom line, such as a quarterly profit-and-loss sheet or refunding of a public agency, and a societal bottom line, which indicates value added to external clients and society.

    Each of these terms and concepts will be defined, related, and have applications provided. Now let's turn to the six CSFs and provide you with brief examples of each. The extent to which you and your organization incorporates all six CSFs is the extent to which you will define and achieve success.

    The Six Critical Success Factors12

    Each of these six CSFs (Guide 3) forms the basis of a chapter following this Introduction. To get a feel for the frame of mind (or paradigm) that Mega Planning requires, let's look at each CSF in brief.

    Critical Success Factor 1. Use new and wider boundaries for thinking, planning, doing, and evaluating/continuously improving. Move out of today's comfort zones.

    Look around our world. There is evidence just about everywhere that tomorrow is not a linear projection—a straight-line function—of yesterday and today, such as car manufacturers that squander their dominant client base by shoving unacceptable vehicles into the market or airlines that focus on shareholder value and ignore customer value. A lot of “conventional paradigm” organizations are “history,” as noted by futurist Alvin Toffler in his early classic The Third Wave and his more recent War and Anti-War.13 An increasing number of credible authors have been and continue telling us that the past is, at best, prologue and not a harbinger of what the future will be. In fact, old paradigms can be so deceptive that Tom Peters suggests that “organizational forgetting” must become conventional culture.14

    Chapter 1 provides the “new realities” for future Mega Planning and success: the bases for applying CSF 1. Times have changed, and anyone who doesn't also change appropriately is risking failure. It is vital to use new and wider boundaries for thinking, planning, doing, and delivering. Doing so will require getting out of current comfort zones. Not doing so will likely deliver failure.15

    Critical Success Factor 2: Differentiate between ends and means. Focus on “what” (Mega/Outcomes, Macro/Outputs, Micro/Products) before “how.”16

    People, especially in our U.S. culture, are “doing-type people” We hate delay and detest not swinging right into action. We want to get going. In this dash to doing, we often jump right into solutions—means—before we know the results—ends—we must deliver. Writing and using measurable performance objectives is something upon which almost all performance improvement authors agree. Objectives correctly focus on ends and not methods, means, or resources.17 Ends, the “what,” sensibly should be identified and defined before we select “how” to get from where we are to our destinations. If we don't base our solutions, methods, resources, and interventions on the basis of what results we are to achieve, what do we have in mind to make the selections of means, resources, or activities?

    Focusing on means, processes, and activities are usually more comfortable as a starting place for conventional performance improvement initiatives. Doing so can be seductive but dangerous. For example, imagine that you are in a novel area and then are provided with a new automobile, keys in the ignition, and fully fueled, but there are no maps for navigation toward where to head or to guide your journey after you start out. This situation would be similar if, for any organization and performance improvement initiative, you were provided process tools and techniques without a clear map that included a definite destination identified (along with a statement of why you want to get to the destination in the first place). Also, one risk for starting a performance improvement journey with means and processes that there is no way of knowing whether your trip is taking you toward a useful destination or the criteria for telling you if you were making progress.18

    It is vital that successful planning focuses first on results—useful performance in measurable terms—for setting its purposes, measuring progress, and providing continuous improvement toward the important results, and for determining what to keep, what to fix, and what to abandon.

    Chapter 2 provides the concepts and tools for focusing on useful ends before deciding “how” to get things done. It also sets the stage for the next two related CSFs (3 and 4).

    Critical Success Factor 3: Use all three levels of planning and results.

    As I noted in CSF 2 (above), it is vital to prepare all objectives that focus only on ends, never on means or resources. As will be seen in later chapters, there are three levels each of planning and results, shown in Table I.2, that are important to target and link.

    Table I.2 Levels of Planning and Results That Should Be Linked During Planning, Doing, and Evaluation and Continuous Improvement
    Primary Client and BeneficiaryLevel of PlanningLevel of Result
    Society and external clientsMegaOutcomes
    The organization itselfMacroOutputs
    Individuals and small groupsMicroProducts

    Chapter 2 discusses and defines the three levels of planning (Mega, Macro, Micro) and the three levels of results (Outcomes, Outputs, Products)19 and how to assure that there is strategic, tactical, and operational alignment among what you and your organization use, do, produce, deliver, and the value added for external clients.

    Critical Success Factor 4: Prepare objectives—including those for the Ideal Vision and mission objective—that have indicators of how you will know when you have arrived (mission statement plus success criteria).

    It is vital to state, precisely and rigorously, where you are headed and how to tell when you have arrived.20 Statements of objectives must be in performance terms so that one can plan how best to get there, how to measure progress toward the end, and how to note progress toward it.21

    Objectives, at all levels of planning, activity, and results, are absolutely vital. And as will be noted later, everything is measurable, so don't kid yourself into thinking you can dismiss important results as being “intangible” or “nonmeasurable.” It is only sensible and rational to make a commitment to measurable purposes and destinations. Increasingly, organizations throughout the world are focusing on Mega-level results.22

    Chapter 2 presents the concepts and tools for the required levels of precision and rigor, at all organizational levels of planning and doing, to make you successful.

    Critical Success Factor 5: Define “need” as a gap between current and desired results (not as insufficient levels of resources, means, or methods).

    Conventional English-language usage would have us employ the common world “need” as a verb (or in a verb sense) to identify means, methods, activities, and actions and/or resources we desire or intend to use.23 Terms such as “need to,” “need for,” “needing,” and “needed” are common, conventional, and destructive to useful planning. What? Semantic quibbling? Absolutely not.

    As hard as it is to change our own behavior (and most of us who want others to change seem to resist it the most ourselves!) it is central to useful planning to distinguish between ends and means, noted as CSF 2. To do reasonable and justifiable planning, we have to (1) focus on ends and not means and thus (2) use “need” as a noun. Need, for the sake of useful and successful planning is used only as a noun, as a gap between current and desired results.

    In Chapter 3, if we use need as a noun, we will be able to not only justify useful objectives but what we do and deliver on the basis of costs-consequences analysis. We will be able to justify everything we use, do, produce, and deliver. It is the only sensible way we can demonstrate value added. It really is. Also provided are the tools for needs assessment and needs analysis: what they are and how to do them.

    Critical Success Factor 6: Use an Ideal Vision as the underlying basis for all planning and doing (don't be limited to your own organization).

    Here is another area that requires some change from the conventional ways of doing planning. Again, we have to buck the conventional wisdom.

    An Ideal Vision is never prepared for an organization but, rather, identifies the kind of world we want to help create for tomorrow's child. From this societal-linked Ideal Vision, each organization can identify what part or parts of the Ideal Vision it commits to deliver and move ever closer toward. If we base all planning and doing on an Ideal Vision of the kind of society we want for future generations, we can achieve “strategic alignment” for what we use, do, produce, deliver, and the external payoffs for Outputs.

    But we have to change some paradigms, change some old habits. Even, as Peters suggests, “forget” processes and paradigms that will hamper our success.24 Get out of our current comfort zones. Chapter 6 identifies the nature and characteristics of an Ideal Vision, defines what they are, and how to both derive and use them.

    The balance of this book takes you from tools and concepts to application and continued success. Each chapter is intended to build on the previous ones, so please read and use them sequentially for moving ahead into the “whats,” “whys,” and “hows” of Mega Planning. Your objective and critical thought and actions will be the vital elements in achieving personal and organizational success.

    Ready? Let's start.

    Note: General references for Mega Planning (and strategic thinking) by authors cited in the Notes sections are combined in the Bibliography at the end of the book. Cited works and related readings in that section with a • in front of them are basic to Mega Planning.


    Everyone in every organization should be adding value to the organization and external clients and society. To calibrate what value you and your organization contribute, answer the following questions:

    • How do you now add value to
      • yourself?
      • your group?
      • your organization?
      • your external clients?
      • society?
    • How do you know? What data can you use to justify your answers?
    • What could you do to add value to
      • yourself?
      • your group?
      • your organization?
      • your external clients?
      • society?
    • How will you know when you have added value? What data and evidence will be required?

    1. The work of Thomas Kuhn for the “hard sciences” and the work of Joel Barker, who relates Kuhn's findings to the social sciences, provide the definitions for my use of “paradigm.”

    2. In each chapter and section, figures and tables are identified with the chapter number first (e.g., Figure 2.3 is the third figure in Chapter 2).

    3. Please realize that, unlike many other presentations of critical success factors, these relate to any organization and should be generalized to any organization, public or private. Most “critical success factors” discussed in the management literature refer to organization-specific factors related to a unique business. The CSFs discussed here apply to any organization and so are “above” any organization-specific factors.

    4. Most planning experts now agree. I first proposed using a societal frame of reference as the primary focus for individuals and organizations in 1968 and 1969 (which brought alarm and suspicion on the part of many “old paradigm” thinkers). But I have recently been joined in this call for such new paradigms by many future-oriented thinkers including (but not limited to) those noted in this Introduction. This shift in thinking to new paradigms—frames of reference that are radically different from the “conventional wisdom”—are sprouting as Joel Barker suggested that they would when seen by the “paradigm pioneers” of our world. Please review the references in the Bibliography that are noted with a before them, for these particularly focus on new paradigms for Mega Planning and are fundamental to the major thrusts of, and suggestions in, this book.

    5. Of course, each one is valuable, but used together they are even more powerful.

    6. I will continue to note that a focus on societal value added is termed “Mega”-level planning. I do this not to be annoying but simply because it is so central to Mega Planning and personal and organizational success. It is this societal focus, in measurable terms, that is unique to strategic planning plus.

    7. Later, I further define the Organizational Elements Model (OEM)—Guide 1—as the basis for linking what any organization uses, does, produces, and delivers with societal value added. Contemporary strategic planning models do not yet incorporate societal payoffs, or Mega-level results and consequences.

    8. This is different from the conventional usage of need and needs assessment because it has a primary focus on gaps in results and not gaps in resources and methods-means.

    9. It is important to realize that many improvement approaches prematurely start with “analysis.” Analysis is the process of “breaking the parts of a system into its components and identifying what each part contributes and how it interacts with the others.” Assessment comes before analysis and identifies what should be analyzed in the first place. Assessment identifies what parts of the system there are (and should be) in order to identify the value and worth of the elements in order to identify gaps between current and desired results (needs) in order to meet the needs.

    10. I prefer using the label continuous improvement because it does not carry the conventional “baggage” of poorly done evaluations that use performance data for blaming. Continuous improvement uses data for fixing and improvement and never for blaming.

    11. The societal bottom line is indicated in the Mega level of results (termed Outcomes): value added for external clients and society.

    12. Some of the organizational examples in this book are “anonymous.” Although I have worked almost worldwide with many major organizations, both public and private, I often do not use their names in cases-in-point because most organizations prefer not to have their situation made public. Some are in very competitive environments and do not want to share their status. Others have not taken advice (although they often wish they had). Finally, others have learned, continued to learn, and simply want to get on with their continuous improvement.

    13. See Toffler's interview with Peter Schwartz in an interview in the November 1993 issue of Wired. In this interview, Toffler suggests that the failure to pay attention and respond to changed realities, such as the “information age,” is a “failure in imagination.” Instead, most people seem to rely on experts who are usually trapped in old paradigms themselves. He points to some consensus assessment techniques, such as Delphi studies, that build on old paradigms instead of imagining new ones.

    14. Peters (1997).

    15. Peters (1997) states that it is easier to kill an organization than it is to change it.

    16. It might seem as if there are a bunch of new words—jargon—flowing at you now. And there are. Please be patient. Each will be defined, justified, and related to the others. The distinctions are important.

    17. Bob Mager set the original standard for measurable objectives. Later, Tom Gilbert made the important distinction between behavior and performance (between actions and consequences). Recently, some “Constructivists” have had objections to writing objectives because they claim it cuts down on creativity and imposes the planners' values on the clients. This view, I believe, is not useful. For a detailed discussion of Constructivism, see the analysis by David Gruender (1996).

    18. Jan Kaufman provided this insight.

    19. It is interesting and curious that in the popular literature all results tend to be called “outcomes.” This failure to distinguish among three levels of results blurs the importance of identifying and linking all three levels in planning, doing, and evaluating/continuous improvement.

    20. An important contribution of strategic planning at the Mega level is that objectives can be linked to justifiable purposes. Not only should one have objectives that state “where you are headed and how you will know when you have arrived,” they should also be justified on the basis of “why you want to get to where you are headed.” Although it is true that objectives only deal with measurable destinations, useful strategic planning adds the reasons why objectives should be attained.

    21. Note that this CSF also relates to CSF 2.

    22. Kaufman, Watkins, Triner, and Stith (1998).

    23. Because most dictionaries provide common usage, not necessarily correct usage, they note that “need” is used as a noun as well as a verb. This dual conventional usage doesn't mean that it is useful. Much of this book depends on a shift in paradigms about “need.” The shift is to use it only as a noun and never as a verb or in a verb sense.

    24. Tom Peters (1997) suggests that “organizational forgetting” can be a vital element in success. He notes that the successful organization will “forget” the conventional wisdom of the past—erase it from the corporate reality—in order to use new thinking. Good advice.

  • Applications and Case Studies of Mega Planning

    Many people want to know if Mega Planning really works. Can it really be done, or is it academic and theoretical? Will public and private organizations accept and apply it, or are they only interested in improving the efficiency of current operations and rely on the profound hope that doing things right will result in doing the right things?1 This section deals with these questions.

    It works when applied fully and consistently. Mega planning has been applied. And it works. It works best when people apply it completely and with integrity. Partial attempts don't serve us well. After all, why should there be detours on our way to making our world measurably better instead of a direct path?

    In this section of the book, I offer (1) some simulated case studies—to make major points about Mega planning clear—and (2) some brief summaries of cases where Mega planning has been successfully applied in operational situations.

    Not every application has been totally successful. Why? Because when even partially successful cases are objectively analyzed to find out why they “failed,” it usually turns out that there are one or more reasons for most: (1) Only part of the process has been applied; that it has been inserted2 in one part of an operation without taking account of the fact that every organization (and its context) is a system; (2) good intentions were overcome by quick fixes; (3) there was a change of ownership or executive management,3 where the new players acted to replace existing initiatives with their own in an effort to “take control” and have no vestiges of the old regime; (4) there was not sufficient sponsorship by senior management who often jumped on a newer and more fashionable bandwagon; (5) internal politics took precedence over adding value to all partners; (6) turnover of key personnel revealing lack of depth of competence and commitment; and/or (7) planners lost the discipline about the six critical success factors of Mega planning and shifted back to more comfortable (and acceptable) tools and methods. We can learn from both successful and unsuccessful applications, however.

    The context of Mega planning is important, and often people don't understand why one would want to think in terms of societal value added instead of simply improving current processes and procedures. Let's look as some stories that answer the question “Why do Mega planning?”

    Hypothetical Scenarios Based on Reality

    First, a fable about a fish, conventional wisdom, and planning. It speaks to the requirement to change paradigms in order to be successful at Mega Planning.

    The Mainstream (a Fable)4

    Ever since he was spawned, Sylvester seemed different. He didn't even care for his name—he thought it sounded more devious than smart. Although he was a fairly good student in school (he was often in school, for fish tend to live in schools), Sylvester was always thinking, questioning, and seeking alternatives.

    The teachers, it seemed to him, were preparing everyone for life in the Mainstream. There were courses on water temperature, bottom characteristics, velocity, the sociology of fish, turbulence, plankton, predators, and cooperative swimming. Students were told it was their destiny to learn their lessons, grow up, and take their preordained place in the Mainstream.

    Sylvester wasn't completely convinced. He continued to think, puzzle, and question. Why were all of these courses being taught? What was the Mainstream? Where was it going? Why should he want to go where it was headed? His teachers were, at first, amused and patronizing. They told him that such foolish questions would pass. “Just study your lessons,” they advised.

    As Sylvester got older (he developed a fine set of gills that was the envy of many of his classmates), his questions were still unanswered. Typical of his inconsistent high school career, he didn't make the high school swimming team. He even tried, unsuccessful, to institute a swimming-upstream event.

    Going to college. Sylvester graduated from high school with grades good enough to get himself into a decent college—Aquarian University, right in his home creek. The courses were all about living, and “making it,” in the Mainstream. Fish who were experienced in the “real world” came to class and lectured on life there. Still, Sylvester asked, “Isn't it easier to find the Mainstream than to know where it is going? Are there any alternatives?” The professors at Aquarian were less amused than his high school teachers. They told him that to get along, he had to go along. The business of fish, they said, was like politics: It was the art of the possible. They advised him to think about change—if he had to be concerned with it at all—as incremental. “Take small, deft slithers lest you displease the bosses or even your associates.” “Be ‘practical’. Be ‘real world.’” Sylvester grappled quietly with his heretical questions, studied, and passed his courses. Still, he thought about purpose, destination, rationality, and goal setting, not just goal seeking.

    He devoured the literature on planning and management, and most of it, regardless of the rhetoric, sounded, well, basically “Mainstream.” The “in” books had a few punchy phrases and were occasionally peppered with some innovative-sounding words. But at closer examination they were simply suggesting more efficient ways to swim in the Mainstream.

    On to work in the “real world.” After graduating, Sylvester took a job in a large and prestigious Mainstream company. The pay was good (with lots of extra plankton as bonuses). One of his coworkers, Fred, was more conventional and thought that planning was best done by building on what was known and accepted. Fred and Sylvester argued. A lot. After months of wrangling passed, their mutual boss decided that research should resolve their conflict; both of them were to pursue a major project, each following his method of planning. There was to be a competition based on results, not talk!

    Sylvester's boss was astute. She allowed him to pursue his “curious” type of strategic planning. (He called it “Mega Planning” because it took a very wide-angle view as compared to the conventional methods that Fred quoted.) It was time to go from theory to results.

    A different perspective. While most fish just worked on improving their technique, swam in circles, drifted in the current, and headed downstream in unquestioning unison, Sylvester wanted to find out where the Mainstream was headed and what was there where it ended. His approach depended on finding the gaps between the payoffs waiting at the end of the Mainstream and what would be good for fishdom. He wanted to identify the current results and compare those to the best possible payoffs before selecting solutions, such as swimming styles and swimming teams.

    One day, while doing research at the edge of the Mainstream, Sylvester came upon a variety of fish he had never seen. (He thought it might be something called a salmon, but he was too discreet to ask.) The stranger told him about a new (for Sylvester) technique that would allow a fish to swim both up- and downstream, to venture to the side, and to go into new waters. Sylvester picked this “radical” method, which would allow him to venture all the way downstream—and to come back! With this technique, he could find out the real consequences of following the Mainstream. Fred, on the other fin, selected the traditional tail extenders to accelerate his trip downstream, noting that his approach was “practical” and “real world.”

    Finding the real “real world.” Fred and Sylvester set out at the same time, with many supporters cheering for Fred and a very few wishing Sylvester well. Fred was a bit smug as he glided in the Mainstream, for he had called together all of his colleagues and gotten their concurrence on his means and methods. Sylvester was less self-assured, but he told himself that reason was on his side—didn't it make sense to know where you want to go before swimming there? He believed that everyone was so busy doing what fish had been doing for centuries that none realized that they just might be swimming in a river of no return!

    Once downstream (which was a long way away from where they started), Sylvester found to his horror that the revered Mainstream led over a waterfall and into a shark pool where all of the Mainstreamers were becoming shark food! He watched helplessly as Fred, tail extenders and all, was swept to his gastronomic fate. Sylvester, seeing the impact of simply following the “tried and true” Mainstream, quickly diverted, using the approach he learned from the salmon, into a different river, there to find a huge, fish-friendly lake with ample food and opportunity. It was a different destination than the one gained by following the traditional current, but it offered much, much more than the conventional and accepted Mainstream. Using his newly acquired technique, he rushed back (upstream, of course) and tried to change the conventional wisdom about swimming in the Mainstream! He told of his experience, the shark pool, the new lake, and pointed out that Fred wasn't back—and wouldn't be.

    It wasn't easy to convince others. It was established and conventional fish wisdom that swimming in that Mainstream was destiny. They said that the Big Fish knew what they were doing, and other small fry should just follow the directions and example of ages. Sylvester tried to change their minds. He attempted, for example, to get alternative planning courses in the schools, but the tenured fish resisted.

    The payoffs. Fortunately, Sylvester's company was innovative and concerned about both fish and business. It encouraged Sylvester's “big picture” approach to planning and used it to plan a new subsidiary, which prospered. Sylvester now is president of the offshoot (called Fish-Futures) that is making a major contribution from working on the new lake he discovered. Also, his employees are setting up even more new businesses in previously unfamiliar rivers and tributaries—business areas that never would have been thought of without Sylvester's new technique that he based on a new paradigm for fish and swimming.

    But to make sure his approach and objectives weren't flashes in the plan (or bait on a hook), Sylvester has just hired another “questioner,” an innovator, to head up FishFutures' planning department. She will make certain that any new “mainstreams” they select will not turn out as poorly as did the old, traditional one.

    Moral:The mainstream has a lot of momentum, but you might not want to end up where it is going.

    From Training to Performance5

    Here is a simulated dialogue between a vice president and an employee of a hypothetical company. It demonstrates how Mega Planning can work to everyone's advantage.

    Karen and John:6 Avoiding the Quick Fix

    Karen is Vice President of Personnel for Watkins Industries. She has a small staff of two personnel specialists, two human resource developers, an affirmative action officer, a staff assistant, and two clerk typists. There are over 1,000 people in the company.

    Recently, there has been some concern about falling orders, and some informal reports that salespeople “didn't know how to ‘sell.’” John, the training specialist, suggested in a memo to Karen that a special training course be offered (even mandated) that would show salespeople how to sell. (In fact, his memo read “We need a sales training program.”)

    Karen sat down with John and carefully and skillfully walked him through some considerations. Karen began, “I appreciate your taking the initiative in helping make Watkins Industries and all of its associates successful. I have read your proposal and would like to explore it and some possibilities with you. Before we move ahead, let's get some of the ‘hard’ data on sales, selling, and orders.” Pulling out the latest computer readouts, she spread them out for both to see. “There does seem to be a decrease in sales, and even corrected for seasonal cycles, we are down 31% over the past two reported years. We do have a gap in our results, don't we?”

    John smiled and nodded.

    “Does this mean that we ought to be training?” Karen asked.

    John seemed puzzled; he was a trainer, and training had always been the solution around Watkins Industries. Karen suggested, “Let's dig into the data a bit more, OK?”

    They poured over the data, and John noticed that sales were down across the board in all product lines and among all salespeople.

    “That's strange, come to think of it,” he said. “If it were a training problem, some salespersons might be more successful than others, but there aren't really any major differences, are there? Let me go back and reexamine this area and rethink my proposal.”

    Five days later, John was back.

    “Karen, I think I was jumping into a solution—training—before really documenting the problem. The pattern of sales data got me thinking, and I looked further. It seems that there is also an increase in customers returning our shipments to us. When I looked at the curve of decreased sales, it almost perfectly matched with the increase in returns! He noted that we have a performance problem, not a training problem. It turns out that our manufacturing plant has shifted over to a new set of vendors for materials in order to save money, and most of our customers report that the quality of our outputs has suffered badly. Sales are slipping because our poor quality is turning off even loyal customers. Sales training won't do us any good. We'd better get this information about quality to top management in case they haven't gotten the word.”

    Karen was dismayed at the news but pleased that she had not squandered resources by going ahead with a large training program before finding that the basic problem was different from that which was first assumed. Means (training), desirable ends (fitness of the output as judged by the user and profits that continue over time, not just one or two fiscal quarters), and their difference-yet-relationship were now clearly in focus at Watkins Industries.

    In this example, Karen and John correctly identified an initial problem (by discovering the basic causes of the presenting symptoms) before rushing into a training solution. The means was at first thought to be training (remember the prescriptive-sounding “We need sales training”), but the real needs were the gaps in quality of the ends, which adversely affected orders, sales, and profits. The training suggested by John could have been the subject of intensive Micro planning and still failed to provide the desirable larger (Mega or related Macro) results.

    Mega Planning and Personal Everyday Life

    Mega Planning can be applied to one's personal life. Here is a scenario from two people struggling to find happiness and a good life. Note how “need” when used as a verb and not as a gap in results can distort one's thinking—and consequences.

    Jim and Katherine:7 Deciding on Good Mental Health

    Jim had just broken up with Katherine. He was really sad—actually quite blue—and often lacked the energy to get out of his apartment or to work up to his capability. He made an appointment with a counselor to get some help and insight into his feelings and future. As the appointment time grew closer, he got more panicky and several times picked up the phone to call Katherine to apologize and attempt to get back together. Then he recalled the vast differences in their values, in what they liked to do, and in what made them happy. She was a nice person, to be sure, but the warmth between them just didn't last. Still, Jim was miserable.

    “I don't know what to do,” Jim said to the counselor. “I just plain need Katherine. I am lonely and desperate without her. I can't seem to think straight or do anything. I just sit around and think about her and how I want to be with her.”


    “I know that we really don't match, but I just seem to need her.”

    More silence.

    “What's going on? Why can't I get her out of my head?”

    The counselor asked, “If Katherine is the solution, what's the problem, Jim?”

    Jim was stunned at first. He pondered the question and started putting Katherine into perspective with his hopes, aspirations, goals, and desires.

    “Are you telling me that I have picked Katherine as a solution to my problems and I haven't first identified my goals—where I want to go in life? Who I am, what I want, where I want to go, what makes me happy? Do I have to resolve that and then consider whether or not Katherine is the partner with whom to accomplish all of this?”

    The counselor responded, “Does that seem to make sense to you?”

    Jim wrestled with this “means-ends” issue for a while and then was ready to pursue it some more. At his next appointment, he asked, “Isn't dealing with emotional things like love and desire out of the bounds of formal problem solving? I mean, don't feelings defy ‘scientific’ analysis?”

    The counselor replied, “Why should it be out of bounds to apply rationality to one's own life and future?”

    “Hmmm,” responded Jim, as he began to realize that one's personal life could be the subject of rational thought and analysis.

    Jim's counselor laid out a six-step8 process for identifying and solving problems and sent him home to see if it could be applied to Jim, his life, Katherine, his feelings, and the future he wanted to create. At first, Jim was uncomfortable and wanted to chuck it all, call Katherine, and get back together. Then he remembered his pain and Katherine's hurt and anguish each time they argued over very basic values and interests. He said to himself, “The problem-solving approach has to be worth a try. I guess if it doesn't really work—if it doesn't allow me to figure this whole situation out—then I can always call Katherine and try to patch things up.”

    Jim bought a stack of file cards and wrote each of the six steps on a different one and then tried to put onto paper the results of applying each step. After much erasing and throwing away what seemed like a thousand cards (it was really only 12), the results looked like this:

    • Identify (valid) problems based upon needs. I want to be happy; self-fulfilled; make enough money to live on without hardship or denying myself food, shelter, and transportation, and then retire at an upper-middle-class level; share love with a partner so that I want to come home to her; have two or three children who can go to college if they choose. I want good health, to experience the world—Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe—and finish my master's degree in management.

    I am not happy now; I seem to be drifting. My master's program has been ignored for a year and a half.

    I am in love (I think), but it doesn't make me happy. (Is this the way love should feel?) I don't have children now, and without a wife it doesn't seem likely.

    Having written the above, Jim began to realize that he had identified some of his goals, purposes, and the gaps between “what is” and “what should be,” but he lacked the specific details to go further. He then turned to the next cards.

    • Determine detailed requirements and alternatives for resolving the problem. I want to retire at or before age 60 with income from savings and/or investments of at least 40% above the then standard for middle-class comfort. My children, if they so desired, will have attended colleges of their choice and graduated and found self-sufficient employment. I will have a wife, and we will stay married (happily, as indicated by my feelings and hers and by our actively being together instead of drifting into isolation). My wife will share the same values as mine while maintaining her personal worth, dignity, and desires—she should share visions with me, not subvert her own. I will have my master's degree in management and will have been promoted to a manager's level, or higher, in a company.

    My alternative possible solutions to this include Katherine (although she doesn't seem to match me and these values, does she?), seeking counseling with her, or finding another partner. I could finish my current master's program or shift to another. I could start an investment program, join an investment club, learn the stock market and the economics of investing and risk, or bet all of my savings at the track.

    Jim thought that there were some more options to consider, but for now he continued. Thinking in terms of costs (financial and emotional) and associated payoffs, Jim came up with the following:

    • Select solutions from among the alternatives. Sign up for the remaining courses in my master's program. Date other women and frankly share with them my values and future objectives and determine the extent to which love is discovered and they share my future and I share theirs. I will start Monday to review investment options with the licensed investment broker who has been so successful for my Uncle Bill, lay out my financial timetable and resources, and start moving toward my objectives.
    • Implement selected solutions and methods. Jim wrote down the sequence and schedule for each of these functions, along with major milestones to use for determining his progress (or lack thereof).

    Getting into all of this, Jim then wrote down a rough evaluation and continuous improvement plan.

    • Determine effectiveness and efficiency. Check progress weekly, monthly, and yearly using the criteria from Steps 1.0 and 2.0.
    • Revise as (and when) required. Based on my criteria and my progress, I commit to changing, as required. I can even change my goals, objectives, and values!

    Jim took this back to the counselor, laid it all out, and asked, “How am I doing?”

    The counselor replied, “What do you think?”

    Jim replied, “I'm on my way!”

    “Right,” said the counselor. “I believe you will do just fine.”

    “I might ring your bell if I run into trouble down the road. Thanks for your help,” said Jim with the first real smile he had shown during counseling. The counselor concluded with “You've done yourself some real favors. Count on yourself.”

    Thus Jim applied the lessons of Mega Planning and used the six-step problem-solving process: differentiate between means and ends, focus first on Mega-societal and personal survival and well-being—and apply a six-step process in which you identify problems before solving them. Even in our personal lives, being rational, sorting out means from ends, and watching out for solutions that don't go with our real problems can be very constructive—even freeing.

    Case Studies of Organizations Applying Mega Planning

    Organizations, both public and private, have opted to apply Mega Planning. Here are some. First, the Florida Department of Corrections.

    Benchmarking Perfection to Obtain Best Practices and Add Value to Floridians9

    In the 1990s, the Florida Department of Corrections (DC) responded to a challenge from citizens and the governor to deliver and demonstrate value added for the taxpayers of Florida. The literature and accomplishments from “total quality management” inspired a self-direction to continuously improve. The DC has developed and is continually improving a quality program called “Corrections Quality Management Leadership” (CQML). The DC is additionally addressing several elements missing from conventional quality management processes by benchmarking not only externally, against other “industry leaders,” but internally, against definitions of the kind of results it wishes to achieve for the kind of society it desires to co-create.10 Doing so required rethinking assumptions that had been made about quality and including some additional directions as the quality team and management enlarged the quality management/continuous improvement envelope.

    Benchmarking: A solution in search of a problem? One source of possible misdirection (despite the best of intentions) was a popular notion that public sectors should always benchmark private sector organizations, often without first defining the desired end results and consequences.11 This practice is usually not productive. For one thing, private sector organizations often tend to pay less attention to societal value added than do public ones. A second problem might come from a tendency for private sector organizations to optimize in the short term (quarterly profits) and not look after the middle and longer runs in terms of value added for external clients (including society).

    To expand their paradigm to Mega, the consideration of societal/health/well-being was added before indiscriminately adopting other organizations' “best practice.” For the DC, then, best practices and benchmarks combined that which was developed internally with that which was discovered externally from both the public and private sectors.

    To apply societal payoffs-where inmates go to after release and realizing that the same society pays for crime and criminality created by any failures of a corrections system to prepare inmates for life—the DC decided to identify society as the primary client and beneficiary of any and all organizational activity, including itself. It adopted a new organizational paradigm, where there are two “bottom lines:”

    Conventional bottom line: Short-term profits (for profit-seeking organizations), continued funding (for public sector organizations)

    Societal bottom line: Measurable value added to society

    An example of applying Mega-level concerns to quality and planning is the Florida Department of Corrections' operational mission (informal, but part of the culture) to do the following:

    Put ourselves out of business through success: reduce recidivism to zero and, working with others, help create a society where no one goes to prison.

    Sadly, this mission is not likely to be achieved in our lifetime, but it gave a focus to all that the DC uses, does, produces, and delivers: the improvement of society and all who live there. By focusing on an ever-improved society, the DC could make operational and tactical decisions based on societal value added. Also, it used this societal bottom line to enlarge the conventional quality management envelope to one that added societal value added to internal organizational performance improvement.

    As a cooperative venture with Florida State University, the DC developed a self-assessment instrument that collected basic benchmarks of DC understanding and performance relative to quality management so that the organization and its associates could gain performance data on which to base its continuously improving. Mega-level indicators were added to the conventional 14 points of Deming's to assure that linkages would be made between what the DC uses, does, produces, delivers, and societal value added.12

    The Florida Department of Corrections used this database to answer organizational questions most important to its quality managerial leadership processes. Based on a representative sample of the DC's 28,000+ employees' opinions regarding CQML, the aggregated data from the survey were used to determine the discrepancy between current and desired states of quality managerial leadership for different demographic groups within the DC. Based on the magnitude of these discrepancies, decisions regarding the closure of these gaps (in terms of prioritization and importance) are better facilitated. Additionally, data obtained from the initial survey effort can be used to establish a baseline against which the DC can track future progress. This database will continue to be part of the way in which the DC continuously improves as it adds value to its associates, to the agency, and to the people of Florida.

    It developed and used a holistic and Mega-focused system approach to quality management and continuous improvement. The continuous improvement concept and process are vital for any organization and its associates to add value to themselves, their organization, and to their external clients as well as society to be served. By adding the focus of the societal bottom line to strategic planning, needs assessment, and quality management, the DC can now better assure that it not only does things right but also does the right things—advice long ago given by Peter Drucker. In addition, it provides solid measurable justification for improvement and demonstrating to others what return they have received for the expenditures. This approach is one the DC has successfully applied to the continuous improvement of its continuous improvement process.

    A Major International Energy Company Applies Mega Planning

    Another example of applying Mega planning is Refinor, a very large petroleum products division of Perez Companc, an Argentinean based industrial giant.

    Refinor, being the leader in the production and distribution of combustible products in North Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay, is dedicated to reaching the full potential of its area of influence, Mercosur (south market) of Latin America. This recognized potential extends beyond natural resources onto its people, employees, customers, and the community.

    Refinor produces liquid combustibles such as propane and butane as well as kerosene, gas oil, light oil, and so on. The first destination of all condensed crudes in the Northeast is the distillery, dominating the local market as it is the only one in the region. Local storage plants throughout the region satisfy demand. It also commercializes its products through the operation of many full-service retail stations in the region.

    Under the guidance of Buenos Aires-based management consultant Mariano Bernardez, the company, community, and stakeholders pursued applying Mega Planning. They started by setting a Mega-related Ideal Vision13 that was used to drive organizational performance improvement:

    Refinor's social end is the development and delivery of a better standard of living for the people in their communities. Create self-sufficiency and self-reliance, generate jobs and professional advancement for employees, clients, and vendors.

    From Mega to Macro. The Refinor planning partners derived Macro-level objectives (based on the Ideal Vision) in order to derive their mission:

    Increase to at least 35% in Refinor's gasoline sales based on brand recognition and preference among the people in the northwestern region of Argentina who are in its market and in its regional home office.

    From this Ideal Vision and primary mission, they derived differential business factors:

    • With its clients, increase sales by
      • developing new service centers that integrate quality and quantity, thus generating a positive trademark image and reflecting the prestige of its shareholders.
      • developing superior sales tactics based on their comparative advantage.
      • including independent service stations and clients with Refinor in a chain of solid service, united by the same commercial philosophy.
    • With its business partners, create strategic alliances and communication channels that will permit Refinor to
      • participate in and develop common business interests.
      • continuously identify convergent points of interests.
    • With the communities, as a “good neighbor,” to recognize its responsibilities to preserve the environment and commit to minimizing/eliminating the effects caused by its products and services to avoid adverse effects on its employees, clients, the community, and the environment.

    Policies. After the purposes had been derived, the planning team developed policies to achieve the above:

    • Full compliance with all environmental rules and regulations.
    • Optimize the use of energy, natural resources, and other materials.
    • Raise awareness and respect for the environment and how to maintain and improve it toward zero pollution and resulting illness or disability.
    • Monitor compliance with policies and objectives, guaranteeing a commitment to continuous improvement and health and well-being.
    • Constant collaboration with educational and sanitary organizations to achieve the Mega objectives.

    To operationalize the mission and commitment to survival and self-sufficiency of all members of the communities it served, Refinor made a commitment to meet ISO 14000 environmental standards and then met them. The parent company also learned from this Mega example and applied it to other parts of its operation, including Peru where it stopped production of a newly acquired company until environmental quality standards were met.

    The development of human resources. All Refinor personnel participated in continuous improvement programs and/or workshops. Workshops consisted of a three-day activity with cross-sector, cross-level teams composed of management, labor force, and vendors, directed at creating and developing solutions to problems previously identified by the company and/or the community.

    Refinor's investment in its people sets it apart from its competitors. At this time, the company is going through a stage of consolidation with its people and their values that should be reflected by

    • high professionalism of jobs and training/education.
    • formation of multidisciplinary, multilevel work groups to achieve a common goal of societal survival, self-sufficiency, and well-being for all.
    • high commitment and enthusiasm to each other and Mega objectives.
    • management locations close to its clients, processes, and markets.
    • norms and procedures created by a genuine consensus among all involved.
    • encouragement of employees by empowering them with the capacity and responsibility to make decisions and take the initiative.
    • positive mental attitude.

    Process for implementing Mega Planning. A key process for Refinor's Mega Planning implementation was the “workout.” As the organizational consultant and change facilitator, Bernardez formed partnerships with management, the communities, and other service providers and used a General Electric-developed process—the “workout”—for linking individual and organizational activities to the mission and the Ideal Vision. The workout is a participative process that involves all planning partners in defining and achieving the company's future and its contributions to the shared future.

    The workouts revealed some very interesting things. One area was concern about losses of petroleum as it went from refinery to distribution points. With a Mega orientation, they observed that “if we don't leverage the real income of the local population, they will rather steal than buy our fuel at a cost of $5M a year for a $50M total sales company.” Instead of investing heavily in pipeline repair and maintenance, they investigated other possible sources of loss and found that some locals along the pipelines were “tapping” into the lines as a source of cheap (free) energy. Instead of a focus on repair and maintenance, Refinor dealt with how to get people, who could be clients and not thieves, to be able to acquire its products legitimately. The standard fix was maintenance; the Mega approach identified an entirely different solution as being required.

    The workouts also found that another source of losses was from ill-maintained tanks. These maintenance problems were directly related with the perceived former employees of YPF (the former Argentinean government-owned petroleum company) who felt disempowered. This perception resulted in a loss of interest in their regular tasks. Again by being concerned with performance instead of means and activities, the realistic focus for improvement was uncovered. The workouts provided the vehicle for a commitment to adding value for self and others, not just “licking their wounds.” The workouts, by focusing on Mega, resulted in participants being actively concerned with adding value to themselves, their organizations, and the communities in which they all lived. The workout process raised commitment to performance and results.

    Refinor's Mega Planning has a lasting effect. The initiative was so successful that the communities decided, when the company was put on the market by its parent organization, to continue this program on their own resources so that it would be independent of any organizational support.

    The Niagara Wires Case: Its Mega Approach

    The management of the Niagara Wires14 plant in Quincy, Florida, wanted to improve quality and productivity. They had read about the success of “Japanese-style management,” “excellence,” “involvement groups,” and “quality circles.” Management wanted to find a way to harness the human potential of all of their workers, from hourly employees to executive staff.

    Niagara Wires, located in a town of about 9,000 people, is one of the largest employers in the area. The plant makes forming fabrics that are sold directly to paper manufacturers who use the fabric to make paper items such as bags, cartons, and writing pads. It does not have a direct retail market but supplies those who do; in other words, Niagara Wires' customers have customers. Niagara's clients are very exacting about the quality of the forming fabric. Not only must it perform well, it also must look perfect.

    Because the company didn't have a retail clientele, it would have been tempting for some at the plant to forget about delivery quality, to forget their customers' concerns about how the forming fabric worked as part of a larger, complex manufacturing process assembly for those who bought the forming fabric from them. Management was having none of this attitude and launched an ambitious (but realistic) program to improve quality. They were insightful enough to realize that all employees, from top to bottom, had to share in the quality vision and then, together, make it a reality.

    Niagara Wires hired a needs assessment and planning consultant who laid out all three planning scales and urged the Mega option. The discussions were lively. Some managers wanted to focus on production and each point along the production line as the point for improved quality. (This was, it was explained, a Micro-level, or Product-level, concern.) Others argued for out-the-door quality as the basic unit of concern (the Macro level). A few lobbied for the Mega frame of reference, noting that all of the pieces and products within Niagara Wires had to integrate with other pieces and products within their plant as well as at the customers' plants. Without successful integration, they argued, there would be little business in the future.

    The Mega scale won out (upper management liked this option). Workshops on needs assessment and planning, quality circles (termed “involvement teams”), and quality were held for executives, managers, supervisors, and lead personnel.

    Soon it was time to get the hourly workers involved and committed. Some planners expressed concern about the ability of the on-the-job workers to understand the “big, big picture.” Even the consultant cautioned that workers who never completed high school might not be able to conceptualize the three kinds of results, let alone a results chain. The vice president of manufacturing was resolute: “If we are going to define a better future, we all have to know and share the same vision. I have confidence in these people, and even if they don't understand it all, at least we gave them the opportunity. Each person, from hourly employee to the president of the company, gets the same information.”

    As a result, the hourly production workers not only were to be involved in discussion about the product (the Micro-level concern) but were to receive full disclosure of the company's Mega-level intentions. Briefings were scheduled for the hourly workers, one for each of the shifts. The consultant was a bit wary. Could the hourly workers understand the big picture? According to the conventional wisdom, such people were literal, tangible, and “practical”—perhaps they couldn't handle abstractions!

    In spite of the apprehensions, the briefings went quite well. The hourly workers were pleased that management seemed to be interested both in them and in their ideas. At the night shift briefing, the Mega perspective was presented (as it was in the previous two meetings). The consultant, attempting to determine the level of understanding, asked, “Does this make sense to you? Is it practical?” One worker answered, “Sure, it's like the sign over the parking lot that says ‘Our next quality inspection is made by our customers.’”

    Management knew then and there that their quality program was going to be a “winner.” Not only did everyone care about the results of their own work, they understood how it all had to “add up” for everyone outside their plant. It was obvious to the hourly employees as well as supervisors and management that there was a results chain that reached from the raw materials to their production floor, from inspection to the loading dock, from their plant to Niagara Wires customers, and from the retail customers back to them. All employees applied Mega Planning concepts and tools. It was a team quality improvement effort.

    The payoffs. With a few months after the plan was implemented, indicators supported the initial optimism: Rejections were down, the number of accidents had been reduced, production schedules for making and shipping forming fabric were being met better than ever before, and customers were noticing the better quality.

    Using a Mega unit of analysis was really very sensible and practical. If Niagara Wires had limited its concern for quality to production and productivity at each production stage alone, without considering the whole results chain, it might not have met the requirements of its clients and its clients' clients and failed to facilitate the flow of benefits from consumer to producers to workers.

    A Community Does Mega Planning15

    Under the inspiration of its futures-oriented mayor, Tallahassee, Florida, and its host Leon County decided to provide the criteria and basis for decision making and accountability of its citizens and elected officials. A 21st Century Council was born, and citizens representative of the communities set out to define the “vital signs” of quality of life for all who lived there. It was to be nonpolitical; in fact, its policy was to have no elected politician on its board.

    After much discussion, they derived “quality of life” indictors that were reviewed and approved by citizens and published yearly. The public reported on progress toward or away from the indicators. In graphic form, it reported in such areas as premature deaths, low-birth-weight babies, infant mortality, suicide rates, violent and nonviolent crime rates, traffic fatalities, home-lessness, child abuse, and people in poverty, among other indicators.16 These quality-of-life indicators provided the basis for doing studies on juvenile justice and human services effectiveness.

    Interestingly, by using Mega planning criteria, the Council found that current human services organizations did not know, or would not reveal, their impact on citizens; they were funded in terms of numbers of people served and frequency of services but did not “keep score” on impact and value added. This flaw was not universally well received by conventional human services agencies (some were outright hostile), some of which initially tried to get the study killed. Thanks to a courageous County Council Chair and Council, the report was accepted and released.

    The 21st Century Council continues as a community force and resource. It still publishes its independent quality-of-life indicators yearly and special reports whenever it feels it can help the community to improve its responsiveness to its citizens, regardless of color, race, creed, sex, religion, location, or national origin.


    1. This distinction has been clearly made by Peter Drucker in a number of his writings. The concept is so useful that it is often used by other authors, frequently without attribution.

    2. See Daryl Conner's 1998 book Building Nimble Organizations for some useful advice on change management.

    3. Including changes in political parties for public agencies.

    4. Based on the original version I wrote for Strategic Planning Plus (Kaufman, 1992d).

    5. Major professional organizations concerned with helping people and organizations to be successful have started the transition from training to performance. First, perhaps, was the International Society for Performance Improvement, which started out as a programmed instruction society, and then the American Society for Training & Development. This is a trend that should be nurtured, encouraged, and accelerated.

    6. Again, this is modified from Kaufman (1992d).

    7. Again, slightly modified from Kaufman (1992d).

    8. The same six-step problem-solving process discussed in this book.

    9. This is based on a longer report prepared by Harry Singletary, former Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections, Tallahassee; Doug Leigh, Graduate Research Assistant, Office for Needs Assessment & Planning, Florida State University, Tallahassee; Bernard Cohen, Assistant Deputy Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections, Tallahassee; Roger Kaufman, Professor and Director, Office for Needs Assessment & Planning, Florida State University, Tallahassee, and Research Professor of Engineering Management, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia.

    10. By benchmarking perfection, they are skipping over “copying” others who may or may not have the same objectives or who might be continuously improving so that what is referenced is out of date. This was suggested by Kaufman and Swart (1995).

    11. Cf. Kaufman (1998a, 1998b).

    12. A generic version of this instrument can be found in the 1998 Team and Organization Development Sourcebook (pp. 173–184).

    13. Slightly modified for this report.

    14. Now acquired by another global organization and thus no longer uses this name. This case is earlier reported in Kaufman (1992d).

    15. Reported by the 21st Century Council in a paper and CD report titled “Human Services Interactive: Executive Summary.” More information may be obtained by contacting 21st Century Council, P.O. Box 10312, Tallahassee, Florida 32302.

    16. Because the indicators were derived and approved by nonplanners—citizens—there were indicators included that were Input, Process, Product, and Output related. The extent to which groups did not strictly develop Mega criteria for planning and accountability is an indicator of the failure to transfer their paradigms to Mega. It did, however, provide the data for possible continuous improvement for the future.


    • ABCD model: A four-step guideline for developing objectives: audience, behavior, conditions, and data.
    • Benchmarking: The procedure of comparing one's means and ends with that of others.
    • Change creation: The definition and justification, proactively, of new and justified as well as justifiable destinations. If this is done before change management, acceptance is more likely.
    • Change management: Assuring that whatever change is selected will be accepted and implemented successfully by people in the organization. Change management is reactive in that it waits until change requirements are either defined or imposed and then moves to have the change accepted and used.
    • Comfort zones: The psychological areas, in business or in life, where one feels secure and safe (regardless of the reality of that feeling).
    • Constraint: A condition that makes it impossible to meet one or more performance requirement. A constraint may only be identified after it is determined that there are no methods-means available to meet performance requirements.
    • Corporate culture: How “we do things around here”; the social norms and communication protocol associated with a particular organization.
    • Costs-consequences analysis: The process of estimating a detailed return-on-investment analysis before an intervention is implemented. It asks two basic questions simultaneously: What do you expect to give, and what do you expect to get?
    • Criteria: Those precise and rigorous specifications that allow one to prove what has been or has to be accomplished.
    • Critical Success Factor 1: Use new and wider boundaries for thinking, planning, doing, and evaluating/continuous improvement. Move out of today's comfort zones.
    • Critical Success Factor 2: Differentiate between ends and means—focus on “what” (Mega/Outcomes, Macro/Outcomes, Micro/Products) before “how.”
    • Critical Success Factor 3: Use and link all three levels of planning and results.
    • Critical Success Factor 4: Prepare objectives—including those for the ideal vision and mission objectives—that have indicators of how you will know when you have arrived.
    • Critical Success Factor 5: Define “need” as a gap between current and desired results.
    • Critical Success Factor 6: Use an Ideal Vision as the underlying basis for all planning and doing (don't be limited to your own organization).
    • Cross-impact analysis: Examines possible arrays of changes in timing potentials and modifies each of the predicted variables to determine optional possibilities. Cross-impact analysis tries to account for potential interaction effects.
    • Decision theory: Determines optimum strategies (or tactics) for reaching a specific goal based on probabilities for alternative pathways and methods.
    • Deep change: Change that extends from Mega downward into the organization to define and shape Macro, Micro, Processes, and Inputs. It is termed “deep change” to note that it is not superficial or just cosmetic, or even a splintered quick fix.
    • Delphi technique: Stimulates group responses and achieves consensus without getting the groups together face-to-face. The Delphi uses the opinions of expert panelists in a round of questions targeted to future events and consequences. For each question, the respondents provide their expectations. After each set of responses, the manager reports the median response and the ranges of responses (usually the center 50%) along with, when appropriate, comments made by the panelists. By the end of several rounds (usually three or four are sufficient), responses are clustered into groups that reflect the built-up and integrated considerations of the panelists as they replay both individually and with knowledge of the responses of other panelists.
    • Discrepancy analysis: Identifying needs as discrepancies between what is and what should be. This is not a deficiency analysis.
    • Ends: Results, achievements, consequences, payoffs, and/or impacts.
    • Formative evaluation: Checking of progress toward an objective to assure that means and methods are contributing to move ever closer toward an objective. It is the process of comparing your progress toward an objective in terms of getting closer to and finally achieving the intended result(s).
    • Function analysis: Breaks down and accurately identifies the component Products (building-block results) required to meet a higher-level objective, such as a mission.
    • Game theory: “Players” with opposite interests who are equally knowledgeable and informed and have a known number of options are asked to complete their task in a limited time frame.
    • Hard data: Performance data that is based on objective observation and is independently verifiable.
    • Ideal Vision: The measurable definition of the kind of world that one, together with others, commits to help deliver for tomorrow's child.
    • Implementation and evaluation/continuous improvement: Third phase of strategic Mega Planning; has five steps, or elements: (1) derive the tactical and operational plans, (2) obtain resources, (3) implementation—and simultaneously—(4) continuous improvement/formative evaluation, and (5) determine effectiveness and efficiency. While not strictly planning, this is the part that puts all of the previous planning to work to achieve positive results.
    • Inputs: The ingredients, raw materials, physical and human resources that an organization can use in its processes in order to deliver useful ends.
    • Interactions: The interrelationships between or among functions.
    • Interval: Measurement scale that has an arbitrary zero point and equal scale distances (e.g., degrees in Fahrenheit—34° is the same distance from 35° as 81° is from 82°).
    • Learning organization: An organization that sets measurable performance standards and constantly compares its results and their consequences with what is required. Learning organizations best use performance data, related to an Ideal Vision and the primary mission objective, to decide what to change and what to continue; it learns from its performance and contributions.
    • Macro level of planning: Planning focused on the organization itself as the primary client and beneficiary of what is planned and delivered.
    • Market attractiveness-business position assessment: Uses a two-dimensional matrix (market attractiveness and business position) in which an organization's market size is graphically depicted.
    • Market planning: Views a business as a system in which different parts (including possible product lines) interact and each can contribute to or detract from corporate health.
    • Means: Processes, activities, resources, methods, or techniques used to deliver a result.
    • Mega level of planning: Planning focused on external clients, including customers/citizens and the community and society that the organization serves.
    • Mega Planning: Planning where the primary client and beneficiary is society, now and in the future. Mega Planning views individuals and organizations as means to societal ends; planning at the Outcomes level of results.
    • Mega thinking: Thinking about every situation, problem, or opportunity in terms of what you use, do, produce, and deliver as having to add value to external clients and society. Same as Strategic thinking.
    • Methods-means analysis: Identifies possible tactics and tools for meeting the needs identified in a “system analysis.” It does not select them but only identifies the alternatives that could be considered along with noting the advantages and disadvantages of each.
    • Micro level of planning: Planning focused on individuals or small groups, such as desired and required competencies of associates or supplier competencies.
    • Mission analysis: The system analysis step that reveals (1) what results and consequences are to be achieved, (2) what criteria (in interval and/or ratio scale terms) will be used to determine success, and (3) what are the building-block results and the order of their completion (functions) required to move from the current results to the desired state of affairs.
    • Mission profile: Identifies the top-level—overarching—functions (or results) required to get from current results to required ones for the entire organization.
    • Need: The gap between current results and desired or required results.
    • Needs analysis: Taking the determined gaps between adjacent Organizational Elements and finding the causes of the inability for delivering required results; also identifies possible ways and means to close the gaps in results—needs—but does not select them.
    • Needs assessment: Identifies gaps between current results and desired (or required) ones and places them in priority order for resolution based on the cost to meet the need as compared to the cost of ignoring it.
    • Nominal: Measurement scale that simply names, such as bad/good, hot/cold, on/off.
    • Nominal group technique: A structured problem-resolving process staged to generate ideas and produce group consensus; encourages the participation of everyone in the group, focuses concentration on a specific question, and reaches consensus through voting.
    • Objective: Precise statement of purpose, or destination (Where are we headed, and how will we be able to tell when we have arrived?), having four parts: (1) what result is to be demonstrated, (2) who or what will demonstrate the result, (3) where will the result be observed, and (4) what interval or ratio scale criteria will be used.
    • Operational gaming: People play such roles as customers or opponents in a political debate in specific situations.
    • Operational results: Results at the Micro/Products level.
    • Operations research: A method of obtaining optimum solutions to problems in which relationships are specified and criteria for evaluating effectiveness are known; it summarizes alternatives into mathematical expressions and models and then identifies the set of alternatives that maximizes or minimizes the desired criterion for evaluating effectiveness.
    • Ordinal: Measurement scale that rank orders, such as first, 13th, greater than, less than, and equal to.
    • Organizational Elements Model (OEM): Identifies and links everything any organization, public or private, uses, does, produces, delivers, and the resulting payoffs for external clients and society.
    • Outcomes: Results at the external client and societal level. Outcomes are results that add value to society, community, and external clients of the organization.
    • Outputs: The results that an organization can or does deliver outside of itself to external clients and society.
    • Paradigm: The framework and ground rules people use to filter reality and understand the world around them.
    • Performance accomplishment systems: Any of a variety of interventions, such as “instructional systems design and development,” quality management/continuous improvement, benchmarking, reengineering, and the like that are results oriented and are intended to get positive results; usually focused at the Micro/Products level.
    • Performance indicators: Data points that give information regarding a specific objective, or that we agree on represents the result; often, an agreed-on approximation, such as accepting the temperature measured at the airport as an indicator of the temperature in the city adjacent.
    • Planned change: Defining where you want to head, how to tell when you have arrived, and supplying the criteria for determining success and progress.
    • Planning phase: Second phase of strategic Mega Planning; has three steps, or elements: (1) identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats; (2) derive long- and short-term missions; and (3) derive the strategic plan. The products from the Scoping elements provide the basis for building the Mega-referenced strategic plan.
    • Polling: Entails questioning representative members of a group about their preferences or predications. Sampling methods are crucial. It is important that respondents represent at least a stratified random sample of the group to which the results are to be generalized.
    • Portfolio analysis: Appraises an organization's products and their differential strengths (plotted as circles of various sizes) relative to the two dimensions of proportion of market share and sales growth rate.
    • Primary mission objective: Based on the part of the Ideal Vision the organization commits to deliver and to continuously move toward; the mission objective serves as the basic direction in which the organization will head. It states the Macro-level results (Outputs) to be delivered.
    • Processes: The means, activities, interventions, programs, and initiatives an organization can or does use.
    • Products: The building-block results of individuals and small groups that form the basis of what an organization produces, delivers inside as well as outside itself, and the payoffs for external clients and society.
    • Quality management and continuous improvement: Involving all organizational members to deliver client satisfaction and quality. Everyone in the organization strives to identify the gaps between current and desired results and then continuously improves everything each uses, does, and delivers. Individuals and organizations learn from mistakes and use performance data to improve, not to blame.
    • Quality management plus: Conventional quality management with the addition of Mega—societal value added—used to orient all measurement and continuous improvement.
    • Quasi-need: A gap in a method, resource, or process.
    • Queuing: Uses a mathematical method to optimize waiting time in a crowding situation, such as customers waiting for fast food, standing in line for refunds, applying for a building permit, or scheduling a concert.
    • Ratio scale measurement: Measurement scale has both a known zero point as well as equal scale distances (e.g., temperature in Kelvin, where matter stops moving, my bank account now)
    • Relevance trees: Used to identify hierarchies of various levels of complexity of events.
    • Results: Ends, products, outputs, outcomes—accomplishments and consequences.
    • Results chain: Linking Mega, Macro, and Micro results together and also with Inputs and Processes.
    • Scoping: First phase of strategic Mega Planning; has four parts: (1) select the Mega level of planning; (2) identify and select needs; (3) define current mission; and (4) derive the primary mission objective.
    • Simulation: Builds and tries out a model of a predicted or actual event or situation.
    • Six-step problem-solving model: Used to (1) identify (or justify) problem based on needs, (2) determine solution requirements and identify solution alternatives, (3) select solutions from among alternatives, (4) implement, (5) determine performance effectiveness and efficiency, and—at each and every step—(6) revise as required.
    • Social spin-offs: Organizational contributions made over and above individual and/or organizational payoffs and consequences.
    • Soft data: Perceptions of reality that are personal and are not independently verifiable; also termed “needs sensing” data.
    • Strategic alignment: The linking of Mega/Outcomes, Macro/Outputs, and Micro/Product level planning and results with each other and with Processes and Inputs.
    • Strategic thinking: Approaching any problem, program, project, activity, or effort with noting that everything that is used, done, produced, and delivered must add value for external clients and society.
    • SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis: Indicates environmental and operational factors to consider in determining enroute operational requirements and tactics: what tools and methods will be used and how to manage them while moving toward measurable success.
    • System: The sum total of parts working independently and together to achieve a desired result.
    • System analysis: Identifies and justifies what should be accomplished based on an Ideal/Mega Vision and is results focused.
    • Systematic: Proceeding in an orderly, definable manner; not to be confused with Systematic approach, Systems approach, or System approach.
    • Systematic approach: Planning and doing in an orderly and definable manner; focuses on means, methods and resources (Inputs and Processes).
    • Systemic: Encompassing and impacting the entire system, or organization.
    • Systemic approach: Planning and doing that involves the whole system, or organization; effects observed at all organizational levels, including the Mega, Macro, and Micro levels.
    • Systems analysis: Identifies the most effective and efficient ways and means to get the required results; solutions and tactics focused.
    • Systems approach: Planning and accomplishment based on internal, organizational-only purposes. It focuses only on Macro- or Micro-level results and contributions and is useful only when one is sure of the external requirements and payoffs; otherwise, it is not holistic and might provide solutions that don't go with the overall “system” problem or opportunities.
    • Tactical planning: Finding out what is available to get from what is to what should be at the organizational/Macro level. Tactics are best identified after the overall mission has been selected based on its linkages and contributions to external client and societal (Ideal Vision) results and consequences.
    • Tactical results: Results at the Macro/Outputs level.
    • Task analysis: The (depending on your purposes) lowest level of a system analysis; has two parts: (1) identification and ordering of the steps to be taken (task inventory) and (2) description of the salient characteristics and requirements of successful job and/or task accomplishment (detailed task analysis, or task description). It is derived from a mission analysis and the related function analysis and yields the most discrete level of detail required to identify all the “whats” (but not “hows”) for problem resolution. Tasks are products at the lowest level of results.
    • Type I indicators: Implementation-oriented/process-oriented indicators that identify fidelity of activity and compliance in the application of methods, means, resources, and/or approaches.
    • Type R indicators: Results-oriented indicators that identify measurable performance, consequences, payoffs, or ends. Results targeted may include individual contributions as well as organizational results and consequences and external client and societal value added. This type of results indicator is urged.
    • What is: Current operational results and consequences; these could be for an individual, an organization, and/or society.
    • What should be: Desired or required operational results and consequences; these could be for an individual, an organization, and/or society.


    Cited works and related readings basic to Mega Planning are noted with a “•” preceding each.

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    About the Author

    Roger Kaufman is Professor and Director, Office for Needs Assessment & Planning at Florida State University. He is also Research Professor of Engineering Management at Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia. Before entering higher education, he was Assistant to the Vice President for Engineering as well as Assistant to the Vice President for Research at Douglas Aircraft Company.

    His clients—working in the areas of strategic planning, quality management, needs assessment, and organizational improvement—include Andersen Consulting; Chase Manhattan Bank; Los Alamos National Laboratories; AT&T; Australian Public Service Commission; Florida Power & Light, Australian Department of Defence; Microsoft; New Zealand Treasury; Shell Oil Company, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; U.S. Coast Guard; Texas Instruments; Florida Governor's Office of Planning and Budget; Sun Microsystems; Bank of Boston (Argentina); Fireman's Fund Insurance; Milliken/Milliken University; MB&A (Argentina); American Airlines Group/Blue Cross of Texas/ISPI; New Zealand Army; Tricon; BellCanada; Wellington (New Zealand) City Council; Florida Department of Corrections; and U.S. Army Training Support Center, to name a few.

    He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, a Fellow of the American Academy of School Psychology, and a Diplomate of the American Board of Professional Psychology. The International Society for Performance Improvement, an organization for which he once served as president, has awarded him its highest honor by naming him “Member for Life,” and he is also recipient of its Thomas F. Gilbert Professional Achievement Award.

    He has published 34 books and 180 articles on strategic planning, performance improvement, quality management and continuous improvement, needs assessment, management, and evaluation.

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