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Scimitar Inc

Designing High Performing Organizations Through Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP)

| Key Takeaways

  • Organizational effectiveness is a product of performance in five areas: Leadership, Culture, Talent, Performance, and Structure.
  • The SWP process supports leaders to connect, drive, and lead efforts across the five areas.
  • SWP helps leaders and teams develop their functional strategy and set a trajectory for growth, which yields insightful planning and resourcing takeaways for managers for the growth of the organization.

| Introduction

Many companies today have the luxury of high growth, high margins, and/or cash in the bank. Even so, smaller and mid-sized companies that are well positioned face different problems from their larger peers. They don’t need the burdensome bureaucracy of larger organization. However, they must still review their “people strategy” necessary to get the work done. It’s even more critical in a smaller organization where people are at the heart of the:

  • Company’s performance and delivery
  • Company’s culture
  • Response in times of crisis, and
  • Can create a sense of family and camaraderie in the workplace
We start by hiring from our network – the people we trust the most. Then we expand from there, recruiting team members based on their experience and fit. But why is Strategic Workforce Planning so critical?


Sub-Optimal Experiences with Startups and Key Challenges:

1. Limited Finances

Don’t squander company resources – even after a large IPO – forcing the organization to make difficult financing and cost cutting decisions three years from now

2. Gap with Resource Supply and Pipeline Demand

Big Picture Alignment: Many startup HR teams are focused on quick growth and hiring vs pipeline demand. Sometime squeaky wheel wins the budget battle with Finance.

3. Address Critical Organizational Gaps

Key gaps don’t get addressed quick enough for the teams. Critical gaps are significant problems that stall and/or dilute the efforts of the teams.

4. Changing Resource Paradigm for Near vs Longer-Term Growth

Hire teams and design orgs with purpose and intent that can be flexible and scaled efficiently. Operating model will transition from contractors to FTEs.


You will hire your team, build the organizational governance, develop a strategy, and set course to execute on that strategy. Developing an early neural network and understanding those connections for how your organization executes will have a lasting effect. Done right, it will have a lasting positive effect!

“My CEO and CFO cut 70% of the resources I asked for. How am I suppose to deliver on the pipeline? I locally prioritize, but this is not optimal.”

Client Testimonial (VP of Clinical Development at a Startup):

| Approach and Framework to SWP

The quote above is a testament to how SWP is done at companies – it’s not – and the mechanism used is the Budgeting planning cycle. Leaders start with boxes in an org chart, which is not optimal nor does that support the long-term needs of the organization.

This paper focuses on Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP), and how incorporating and refreshing your company’s SWP will solve organization resource requirements. SWP is vital to the success of your organization – a holistic framework that brings together each people-aspect. The objective is to design and implement a future state organization that clearly addresses:

  • Capabilities and process organizational gaps
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Organizational design that meets current and future needs
  • Other critical issues and gaps (every company is unique)
Organizational effectiveness is a product of performance in five areas:
Figure. Scimitar Inc.’s Framework for a Holistic Strategic Workforce Planning Initiative
approach and framework to swp

The framework is used to understand an organization’s strengths and weaknesses, develop a plan, and improve key facets of the business. The framework does not start with Structure – the structure of your organization naturally is apparent at the end of this process. The SWP process supports leaders to connect, drive, and lead efforts across their Leadership, Culture, Talent, Performance, and finally Structure.

Our combined teams will work together to evaluate each component of the framework to understand an organization’s strengths and weaknesses, develop a plan, and improve key facets of the business. 

The objective is to design and implement a future state organization that clearly addresses the company’s growth needs.

Such examples of capabilities that we review include:

FigureExamples of Capabilities to Support a Strategic Workforce Planning Assessment

Our team looks at all of these parameters across the framework, and digs deep to understand the strengths and weaknesses across your teams to improve the people dynamics and processes and create an optimal working environment.

| Leadership: Team of Leaders vs Leadership Team

Let’s spend a little time on Leadership and setting your Strategy. Do you have a Team of Leaders or a Leadership Team? How does your team operate relative to the spectrum of the scorecard below?

| Leadership: Developing Organizational and Functional Strategies

Working across different groups – R&D teams, G&A teams, Manufacturing team – Scimitar Inc. has helped leaders and teams develop their functional strategy and set a trajectory for growth. The approach yields insightful planning and resourcing takeaways for mangers for growth of the organization; in tough situations such as workforce reductions, it allows leaders and teams to effectively prioritize their work.

| Developing a Functional Strategy

The below overview is a real client example in Quality. This process helped our client understand what in their organization was “core” vs “context”. This exercise helped them build their team and resource plan to manage the capabilities. Immediately, it was evident that the organization had some serious gaps and under – resourced capabilities.

“My resourcing strategy was bass-ackwards! It was remarkable and informative to visually see that I had flipped critical capabilities –I outsourced a strategically important Contracting capability [Core] and in-sourced a less critically important Buyer capability [Context] as an FTE. Following the SWP process, I made key changes to my staffing model, Scimitar supported process improvements where we had gaps, and implemented key KPIs which made a huge difference in creating more stability with my resourcing strategy, higher performance, an improved culture, and lower risk of turnover for key staff.”

Client Testimonial (Head of Procurement):

Key questions through this process may include:

1. Short-Term Horizon: What capabilities do you have today? What is outsourced/contracted and will that model work in the future? What are the critical gaps to deliver?

2. Mid-Term Horizon: How will the portfolio evolve and your ability to support it? What new capabilities will you have to build? What are the changes you need to make to your operating model?

3. Long-Term Horizon: How will we further invest in building key capabilities? How do portfolio changes impact our resourcing strategy?


Beyond looking at the current state and the desired immediate future state, the 2×2 framework has been used for longitudinal planning. We can workshop with teams scenarios, and how those scenarios impact the capabilities needed for their organization. Those capabilities’ requirements may also change as a company grows and develops – moving from an operating model where we hire contractors and consultants to an FTE model where we require in-house staff to drive and execute to successfully run the business. These changing priorities occur at critical junctures as companies grow and mature. These transitions may include Early R&D > Late-Stage Development > First Commercial Product > Portfolio of Products.

| High Performing Teams Have Higher Financial Returns

Assessing financial KPIs and examining the productivity of our teams is important to understanding the impact of high performing organizations. While these KPIs do depend on the operating model for the benchmark (e.g., outsourced, contractors, FTEs), our benchmark examines comparable organizations with slight differences in focused areas.

Figure. Sample Financials –Companies with Top Performance Effectively Balanced Revenue Growth, Costs / Investments, # of Staff, and Have Effective Processes for Managing CapEx and Inventories

| Case Study 1


A startup organization wanted to have strategic insights into the growth and planning for the organization. Human Resources required a strategic partner, Finance needed support for their strategic planning process, and the Executive Leadership wanted to prioritize near-term hires and plan for the mid/long-term horizon.



We worked to align the strategic planning, business planning, and SWP processes.

Conduct 3 sets of workshops –with R&D, G&A and Manufacturing. Provide grounded assumptions and a base-case portfolio. Develop a functional area strategy across the teams, design and developed “algorithms” to estimate resource need, designed a resource model, shared the outcomes and findings with Executive Leadership.


Uncovered critical gaps in Development to scale the organization’s efforts for multiple programs in Phase 2 and 3 (e.g., Regulatory, Clin Ops, Drug Safety).



The company expanded and grew their team aligned to the requirements for the organization, i.e., additional focus and investments in Development and scaling back Research.


The company advanced their programs through development, and responded to a setback in their pipeline. They continued to drive toward commercialization, and still use the processes implemented to guidance their SWP efforts.

For each department, we aligned, recommended, planned, and drove Resources, Process and Priorities.

| Case Study 2


For a large Diagnostic and Sequencing Manufacturing Operations organization wanted to build it’s team, analyze and hire the right resources and the right time.

Significant leadership gaps, open headcount and unclear priorities, lack of understanding of “current state” resources and needs.


We worked with each member of the team, represented leadership gaps as interim department heads, to support our client’s needs to move forward:

Scimitar Inc. served in interim leadership roles and supported manufacturing leadership team.

Conducted team building experiences and using tools such as “What is your Super Power” and Total SDI. Implemented a culture of performance and monitored via KPIs.

Supported the recruiting, hiring, and onboarding of new talent. Developed key Job Descriptions with leadership and HR.

Built operations and key capabilities. Addressed integration challenges and fixed issues (e.g., stockouts, contamination, damaged boxes).

Designed a future state organizational design and developed a 5 year roadmap for growth.

Supported a series of workshops with each lead, and with the collective leadership team to align capabilities and resource needs, headcount priorities, etc. Prepared and conducted the Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP) workshop alignment.


The Manufacturing Operations team hired and grew staff in the most needed areas. Onboarded and transitioned interim leadership roles to newly hired department heads; solved the issues and provided a stable organization.

Integrated the SWP process with the companies Strategic Planning, Business Planning, and Budget processes.

The team continues to bring in Scimitar Inc. on an annual basis to support their SWP refresh and planning efforts.

| About The Author

Amit Bhatia practices operational strategy management consulting in the areas of post-merger integration, strategic workforce planning, and early & late stage development. He focuses on strategy, performance management, and team dynamics.

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