Trust is a must – the human dynamics that unlock integrated business planning success

14 Nov 2023


Leading an organization through disruptive change is never easy. However, the convergence of crises stretching today has pushed many employees’ resilience to its limits. Amid this turbulence, integrated business planning (IBP) provides a vital steadying framework for decision-making.

IBP, which Oliver Wight has been promoting for years, is a common-sense process designed for effective decision-making. It allows senior management to plan and manage an organization over 24-36 months, aligning strategic and tactical plans and allocating critical resources, people, equipment, inventory, materials, time, and money.

Yet even the most seemingly sturdy processes will flounder without engagement. Thats why leaders must also nurture the human dynamics that differentiate good IBP from great. 

Trust is the essential foundation. Leaders must demonstrate vulnerability to foster psychological safety. This permits teams to engage in creative conflict and stress-testing ideas and plans. 

With robust debate and willingness to challenge established assumptions, the team can commit collectively to decisions and be empowered to hold each other accountable. 

Ultimately, IBPs people-focused aspects accelerate the execution and delivery of strategy in todays uncertain environment. Heres a deeper look at how leaders can unlock the full potential of IBP and improve behaviors and company culture simultaneously.


Establish trust through vulnerability

Trust is the bedrock that enables everything else required for peak IBP team performance. Without safety and confidence in each others capabilities and intent, people disengage and revert to siloes.

While competence builds a basic level of trust, leaders must go further to create vulnerability-based trust” within IBP teams. This means openly acknowledging when results contradict expectations, plans need revising, or previous decisions were flawed. 

Admitting uncertainty or mistakes first permits others to do the same without fear of blame or penalty. Over time, this builds deep bonds.

As they emerge, leaders should promptly own shortcomings in predictions, analysis, and planning. This models openness for others in the organization; suppressing errors and weaknesses undermines morale and transparency.

A great, wise leader, looking to establish trust through vulnerability, once told me: “You are not pushing the boundaries hard enough if you don’t make mistakes, and it’s OK to make mistakes. What isn’t great is making the same mistake again.”

He followed it up by admitting some of the mistakes he had made which set the permission with his team to open up where they make missteps and to build a learning culture and high-performing team.

One of the key questions we ask in IBP is: did we do what we said we would do? And this is a great first place to lean into openly admitting we got some stuff wrong and course-correcting the future plan.


Create creative tension through constructive conflict

With solid foundations of trust and psychological safety, IBP teams can engage in vigorous debate and challenge. This creative tension” guards against groupthink and stress-tests strategies and plans. 

Leaders must give participants air cover” and encouragement to dissent constructively, respectfully interrogating each others assumptions and conclusions. Preventing echo chambers and groupthink is crucial.

Indeed, what really helps here is ensuring that you harness the different thinking preference that exists within the team. Diversity of thought is a genuine enabler to make better decisions and building, and developing IBP teams that have that will make better decisions through debate, conflict, and resolution.

The presence of creative conflict signals a high-functioning IBP team. But, uncontrolled interpersonal conflict derails progress. Ground rules help maintain a clear separation between critiquing ideas versus individuals.

When perspectives clash without consensus, leaders shouldn't force agreement. Once arguments are heard, teams can commit to testing alternate scenarios. Evidence and outcomes gradually steer towards alignment.


Secure shared commitment to decision-making

Whatever happens, despite the rigorous debate, IBP teams must align behind decisions with a shared purpose. Leaders should poll for formal commitment once all views are aired.

When commitment isnt unanimous initially, leaders should allow additional discussion to resolve concerns. But ultimately, they may need to make executive decisions for progress. 

What matters most is that dissenting team members agree to implement chosen paths faithfully despite reservations. They should feel their perspectives were heard and considered, even if not selected.

With shared commitment established, leaders can empower teams to hold each other mutually accountable to delivery and metrics. This breeds collective responsibility for outcomes rather than finger-pointing.

Regular reviews also provide the opportunity to revisit past assumptions, adjust course as needed, and address misalignments through constructive, challenging conversations. 


The people-focused principles that accelerate IBP success

With IBPs technical rigor complemented by softer” leadership and teamwork, organizations gain a powerful vehicle for navigating uncertainty. Aligned across functions and equipped with market insights, IBP teams can rapidly respond to changing conditions and priorities.

But this level of agility relies upon the human dynamics of trust, creative tension, shared commitment, and collective accountability. Leaders must nurture these to unlock IBPs full potential.

In organizations that use matrixes especially, IBP provides the connective tissue between business units. When IBP teams model shared purpose and transparency, this mindset cascades through the organization.

Investing in IBPs people-focused dimensions yields decisions and responsive execution that exceeds what leadership could achieve alone. But leaders must boldly lead the way in vulnerability and commitment.

With turbulence inevitable to continue, organizations able to engage brains and hearts through IBP will pull further ahead of the pack. But success rests on leaders first engaging their teams.

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