The intent of the Workbook Process was great: Directing business employees to work for company objectives by open plans and involving employees in planning process. The method this was understood in Patagonia management and implemented was even optimistic. Since target was set so high, the procedure became a monster, too pricey and time consuming.
It was not any more effective usage of time to have the entire company so commonly associated with comprehensive preparation.
There were some future targets to reduce the huge amount of paperwork by constructing computer system systems. This may assist a bit but if procedure is too heavy, computerizing it is not enough. It was anticipated that everybody desire and can find out to understand all the monetary figures. This was not real and that’s why the Workbook Process was not inspiring all the employees.
Perhaps Patagonia should have constructed on parallel some other methods to motivate individuals who were not so thinking about numbers. So the process was attending to all three control issues (instructions, motivation, individual constraints) for part of the organization, however not for all.
In addition to the challenges in planning part, likewise the practical application of follow-up was challenging. It was hard to get the actuals on time and the functionality of regular monthly numbers was not always great for planning because of regular monthly differences.
It might have been much better to use for month-to-month follow-up some other procedures prepared by experts in financial department.
The same targets of openness, understanding of the plans and involvement in planning process could have been reached probably with lighter process. Information could still be openly available. Maybe some non-informal, detailed numbers could be replaced by some higher level metrics. Instead of everybody being involved in all planning phases, there should be preparation of the plans by workgroup management and active and open information sharing in all phases of planning process. In order to give employees the feeling that they can still have influence in plans, there could be possibilities to voluntarily participate in some planning phases. This could be achieved for example by nominating representatives from teams to participate in planning. Management could also organize open reviews or “all-hands meetings” to give everybody on opportunity to influence or challenge ongoing planning. These reviews could be arranged on different levels.
This a bit lighter process would require more focus in information sharing. It would be also important to prepare the information to the level it is efficient to communicate. Targets should be presented also on higher level that just providing the financial numbers. Status reporting should also be simplified. Monthly progress should be presented by simplified and more illustrative metrics than just providing the financials. It may be true that it was good that the Workbook Process was good as one-time experience, because it helped many employees to understand how company works and how target setting is done. However a lighter process is probably more effective in coming years.
I read the article a couple of times. Then I read the chapter 3 slides about action, personnel and cultural controls. I collected some main points by bullet points and started writing based on them. Patagonia way of working and the Workbook process was very interesting. I have seen so many “not so open”-ways to plan and communicate the plans, that it would have been interesting to participate to the Workbook Process. I have learned at work that many times management information is just modified to make the right effect but revealing very little real information. In Patagonia the case was just opposite.
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