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As I See It: Early planning: The ingredient of success for the Trailblazers

While philosopher Sun Tzu said: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

Sun Tzu must be referring to strategic planning as an ingredient of success which was supported by Drew Taylor in his article, having four ingredients to be successful. With his experience, he said that there are four keys to developing and executing a strategic plan with successful results: Measurable results, intermediate signposts, allow input from all levels of the organization, and execution of the plan must apply to everyone.

Knowingly or unknowingly, these were the leadership techniques employed by this year’s Grand Alumni Homecoming Golden Jubilarians Class of ‘73 of the Urdaneta City National High School (UCNHS) who called themselves The Trailblazers. Part of the Trailblazers strategy is likewise coming from Sun Tzu: “If you know the enemy (your rivals for the awards), half of the battle is won.” Example given by the class spokesperson MGen. Jesus A. Fajardo: “During the canvassing for the Alumni King and Queen on November 19, per our intel info, our main rival for this was not really strong. Hence, we did not already include our 100K as our ‘back up funds’ just in case.”

Planning, to them, is crucial, so they adopted the battle cry “Para Sa Klase” patterned after Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s saying: “There is no substitute for Victory” coining their own concept patterned after the Great General, “there is no substitute for early planning.”

In various phone and text conversations with their spokesperson MGen. Jesus A. Fajardo (Ret.), also the adviser of class ’73, he mentioned that: “Immediately after the 2022 Homecoming, we already adopted a planning concept for the 2023 incorporating all areas where we can excel and dominate: Golden Jubilee activities – Nov 23-Blessing and Unveiling Ms. Alma Tabayoyong – Ms. UCHS 72, we were in 3rd year when Alma won as Ms. UCHS during 27th Foundation Day of our alma mater. She delivered an inspirational message.

Kgwd. Auring Agsalud as UCNHSAAI President was the Guest of Honor and Speaker (GOHAS).  Nov. 24 – Remembrance Day. Part 1- Memorial Service with Fr Abet as the Mass Celebrant; Part 2-Short Program. In our Front Cover of the Coffee Table Book, it says The UCNHS “Trailblazers” Class of 73@50: Our Golden Memories and Jubilee Celebration (1973-2023). Other than the Nov 23 & 24 Jubilee Celebrations, the Class of ‘73 was the Main Honoree among all the Jubilarians during the Wreath laying Ceremony in honor of Dr Pedro T. Orata, founder of barrio high schools.

During the General Assembly that followed, our Trailblazers Dance Troupe displayed their terpsichorean skills by dancing Sissiwit, a tribal dance from Mountain province. Same Dance Troupe did it again during the Gala Night (Nov 26) and RBES Night (Dec 4). RBES stands for Retirees from the Military, Balikbayan, Educators and Senior Citizen, which was part of the City Fiesta celebration. Their last performance will be on Dec 9, our Culminating Activity as Golden Jubilarians at the Urdaneta Convention Center.

The ribbon cutting, unveiling of the markers, blessing, tossing of coins, short program, followed with welcome remarks from VEEP Dr. Fe Sumera, Message of MS UCHS ’73 – Alma Tabayoyong -Utulo; Guest of honor Pres. Tino Balilo; Speech of GOAS-Kgwd. Auring Agsalud,’84, President, UCNHSAAI; November 24 – Remembrance Day in honor of 80 departed classmates with responses from Mrs. Marietta Delizo- wife of Sgt. Delizo and Philip Mendoza, Jr., son of Engr. Philip Mendoza; Nov. 28 – Trailblazers Picnic at the SAROJUS Farmview Hotel; Dec. 4 – Balikbayan/SC/Educators Night (Part of City Fiesta); and Dec. 9 –Trailblazers Night/Hawaiian Night, culminating activity.”

With this, I got the impression that they brainstormed, for a year, things they need to do to succeed in the areas of attendance, the alumni parade, decorating the float, costumes, nominating distinguished alumni in various fields, and putting up the first ever coffee table book, among others.

With early planning and diligent execution, they succeeded and became this year’s Grand Slam in best attendance, best float, best uniform, King and Queen, having four outstanding alumni awardees, and the publication of their Coffee Table Book.

So, going back to the four ingredients for an effective strategic plan, The Trailblazers somehow were able to pattern their early planning to Taylor’s concept of strategic planning.  Aware of the fact that they cannot simply set a high-level of objectives and goals, As I See It, the group incorporated measurable results, knowing fully well the Taylor concept. “Without measurable action steps underneath each objective there is no accountability. Leaving the measurable accountability out of the plan is equivalent to leaving the turn-by-turn directions out of a GPS mapping system. You know where you want to end up, but you lack the details on how to get there. A structured GMA (Goals and Measurable Actions) approach incorporated within your strategic planning process will increase your probability of plan success,” Taylor said. The Trailblazers simply made sure they can measure their steps and come up with desired results which made them the Grand Slam winners during the grand alumni homecoming 2023.

The second is to include intermediate signposts. Taylor said: “With most strategic plans spanning 3 – 5 years, that is far too long to wait to determine whether you are successfully executing on your strategic objectives. Even being slightly off course can lead to drastically different results. The same holds true in strategic planning – execution being off by a mere one degree can be the difference between success and failure. Having signposts along the route (we focus on quarterly in our work with clients) allows you to quickly assess how well your strategy is doing and provides the ability to get back on course with only minor adjustments, if necessary. Again, As I See ItThe Trailblazers incorporated periodic checkpoints to determine whether they are successfully attaining their goals as planned with the able leadership of Class ’73 board of directors headed by president Florentino Balilo, VP Fermia Sumera-Ranada, Secretary Elma Abulencia Macalanda, Treasurer Lorna Gonzales, Auditor Rosalinda  Carpio De Guzman, PRO Gloria Adajar Diaz, Director David Bactad, Director Araceli Jamias Evaristo, Director Herminia Verazon Agsalud, Director Reynaldo Alkonga, and  MGen. Jesus A. Fajardo (Ret.) adviser.

Typically, again Taylor emphasized that strategic planning is a top-down process which means it must allow inputs from all levels of the organization. The Trailblazers must have the idea on this also because they included everybody in the planned activities to make sure all the members have responsibility in carrying out the strategic objectives. Spokesperson Fajardo said, in his text messages, “Manong, everybody is involved with the leadership of President Balilo! It was a team effort… we worked as a team!”

And the last one is execution of the plan must apply to everyoneIn Daniel James Brown’s exceptional book, The Boys in the Boat, we see that if one rower of an 8-man crew is not rowing perfectly in sync with everyone else the boat cannot achieve its goal, nor win its race. The same result occurs when only one associate within a firm, even if (actually, especially if) that one associate happens to be the CEO or President of the firm. Everyone, let me repeat Everyone, must be on board and accountable to executing on the goals and actions of the strategic plan.

In effect, strategic planning is a critical piece to the successful growth of an organization and to be able to carry out its goals. Taylor continued: “Operating without a strategic plan is akin to sailing without a rudder.” I was reminded of the book written by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff who adopted the slogan “It’s your ship” which became the title of his book, when he took over as the commanding officer of the ship. He was very kin with strategic planning and giving his crew members the chance to participate in the planning stage and up to execution that’s why he titled his book: “It’s your ship!” and implemented exactly the ingredients of strategic planning.

As I See It, if you tie planning and execution together, it is the most important formula in attaining ones goal!

I think, that’s exactly what The Trailblazers did! Mabuhay!