As Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
The process of daily or weekly planning is always challenging when conditions in the field are constantly changing. Scheduling, assigning and communicating activities is time-consuming enough, but when unexpected adjustments need to be made, the original to-do list is often left unchanged — despite the fact that it is often no longer an accurate representation of what actually happened on the farm.
In building Granular, we’ve spent time researching what makes teams (in farming and in other industries), regardless of external factors, be able to communicate and work effectively. We’ve found that increasingly mobile-centric and lightweight task management tools seem to best accommodate a daily team collaboration process that needs to be flexible and quick. A couple of takeaways:
1. Mobile is the platform for team collaboration. Once the team disperses from the central office and moves onto the field, there is a need for them to communicate efficiently and quickly make updates to the plan as people run late, materials are not available, or conditions are not what they were expected to be. It is not uncommon to see entire teams being managed from mobile – most individuals on a team work remotely and in isolation from each other, but they all have access to a mobile device. Additionally, mobile also helps automate and geo-tag the collection of data through sensors and GPS, leading to more accuracy, easier data organization, and faster adoption.
2. Specialized to-do apps matter in sophisticated operations.While general “to-do list” apps can be lightweight, simple and provide the ability to create a prioritized list of tasks, industry-specific apps add more value to sophisticated operations because of the ability to capture industry-specific data.
While traditional lists written on the board, morning meetings or paper work orders can be difficult to manage, technology can automate and replace a lot of this. And we believe that the process of creating and communicating plans and tasks on a daily basis is well worth the effort:
1. It allows you to prioritize your efforts. Spending a few minutes up front identifying and communicating priorities ensures your team is working on the most important tasks that will get you closer to your larger goals.
2. It helps you maximize efficiency and improve outcomes. Unclear direction for your staff can result in information overload and costly mistakes. While creating and communicating a concrete plan may appear too formal at first, it provides your staff with the comfort of knowing what’s next.” It also shows them what success looks like, leading to improved job satisfaction, better outcomes and lower staff churn.
3. It helps you identify what you’re good at and what you need to improve upon. Are your operators performing their tasks as well as you would expect? How much are deviations from your plan costing you? Unless you know what you were supposed to achieve, you won’t know how far you are from achieving it or how to get there.
I encourage you to start your 2016 planning now, but be ready to regularly examine, react to, and update the plan constantly during the next crop year.