There are two kinds of business owners, those who love setting goals and priorities, and those who see planning as a chore that you need to drag yourself into kicking and screaming. Regardless of how you feel about planning, there are easy things you can do to maximise your chances of success and the sustainability of your business.
1. Review your strategy and plan
Every year you should review your strategy and make sure it still accurately reflects what you want to be and do, relative to the environment. A critical review of your last plan and how it helped guide your desired business outcomes is an important part of the review. If it did help you achieve your goals, try to identify what it was that provided that direction. On the flip side, if you didn’t achieve your goals and your plan didn’t help, you might need to conduct a post-mortem examination on your plan with your team to understand why.
2. Have a “reasonable” number of focus areas and goals
It can be tempting to have a plan that includes everything but the kitchen sink, but that won’t help you; nobody likes copious ‘to-do’ lists. An extensive plan will likely create “noise” that will hinder you from achieving focused outcomes. Identify where you want to be, and what you need to do to get there. I like to stick to three or four key goals, with no more than three actions each. A 12-item plan is very achievable and will result in a tight focus on executing that plan. That’s not to say you can’t include “stretch” actions once the base goals are achieved of course!
3. Include now, next and later in your plan
There are lots of stories where companies have lost relevance because they failed to keep up and, more importantly, adapt; think Kodak, Nokia and Blockbuster. This point isn’t about the timespan of your focus but rather about including what’s around the corner, as well as emerging changes that might impact what you deliver for your customers and other stakeholders in the medium and long term.
Having said that, a large part of your plan should be dedicated to the here and now to ensure you continue to address the needs of your current customers and markets. Work out an appropriate ratio of focus that is right for you; depending on the nature of your business, that might be 70 per cent about the now, 20 per cent on the next and 10 per cent on the later.
4. Check in regularly on progress
Your plan is not a “set and forget” artefact; it should provide a guidepost and act as both a map and compass to help you get there. For example, when you’re on a road trip or hiking, you check the map and compass regularly to make sure you’re going in the right direction as well as to see how you’re tracking towards your destination.
Regular check-ins with your team are critical in gauging whether you’re on target to achieve the goals you have set for the year. If you find a trend of teams being behind or not having started at all, it can be an indicator that the plan isn’t quite right, your team don’t buy into it, you’ve got too many items in your plan, or potentially all three.
So to boost your confidence and ongoing success, build these four things into your planning activities; review your strategy and plan regularly; limit your priorities; include a short, medium and long term focus; and finally, check in on progress
Samantha Rush, Principal Consultant, Legion Consulting Group