What is a Planning Cycle?

Frederic Dufour / Nov 14 , 2017

The PlanningForce methodology establishes what we have called the ‘planning cycle’. This cycle is composed of five phases:

  1. an information gathering phase
  2. a planning elaboration/adaptation phase
  3. an execution phase
  4. a progress phase
  5. an analysis phase.

The basic principles governing this cycle are as follows:

1) The schedule cannot be altered once the execution phase has started, as it can only be modified at the start of the next cycle.

2) The objectives to achieve over the duration of a cycle must be realistic.

3) The duration of the successive cycles is constant.

With strict adherence to these three rules, companies will generate very significant productivity gains.

This is due to the following factors:

1) The system drastically reduces interruptions and changes in production; however, it is these interruptions penalize production the most as priorities change during the process, whether real or intellectual in nature.

2) The targeted goals consider the likelihood of incidents and other factors that reduce productivity, thus reducing the stress of disruptive events, as the time loss generated is already built into the planning process.

3) Operators feel more empowered because, on the one hand, they are given realistic objectives and, on the other hand, they are no longer interrupted during the execution.

4) The implementation of this planning cycle requires managers to show additional discipline. This results in the transmission this methodical approach to their peers, to sales staff, but also to senior management (which is sometimes at the origin of interruptions!). It is therefore a virtuous circle that spreads to all levels of the company and allows a state of mind to develop in which the quality of the commitment made and respect for it predominate.

How do you know the optimal length of a planning cycle?

This will depend on several factors:

– The average duration of tasks and activities

– The pace of introduction of new orders

– The time horizon of the order book

– Predictability of workload required by activities

In many companies where urgency reigns, planning is almost non-existent and sales staff, or even senior management, dictate to operational staff what to produce and when. What do we observe in such companies? Customers are always more demanding, staff are tired and unmotivated, managers are resigned, profitability is low, and competition is fierce.

The introduction of a planning cycle will instead curb these negative dynamics, which are unfortunately present in far too many companies today. This cycle will establish a tempo that, like a stabilizing heartbeat, will give the company a breath of fresh air and serenity. It will open the door to other changes that will make the company grow in maturity.

The more mature a company is, the longer its planning cycle is. A long and stable planning cycle is a guarantee for productivity gains, staff satisfaction and customer loyalty, because, contrary to many preconceived ideas, customers are willing to play the game of greater discipline if it is matched by respect for deadlines, quality standards and maintaining a competitive price.


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