2011 and beyond: planning that works!

Time and again, I hear from clients and business owners, “planning is not possible in this environment’, “well, we did a SWOT’, “We set our objectives–we use Rockerfeller Habits”, “we haven’t met plan so we stopped doing one'”, “we don’t know how to do a plan, really”, “we did our budget”. Need I go on? What do you do for planning?

Planning is an important part of business success, in any economy, and more so now than ever. There is no easy money. There are very few businesses that the current market hasn’t impacted significantly. Between customer value shifts and new technology, most businesses are in need of a business model audit, not just a tune up. That happens in a strategic plan.

Consider that most plans fail because of lack of execution (70%) and that most executives (64%) don’t know how to fix the gap between strategy and execution. The number one reason that plans aren’t executable is lack of strong leadership combined with poor communication. Those aren’t market problems. Those are problems with knowledge, training or expertise.

Basically, there are two choices. Hire an expert, and preferably me. The other option is to become more knowledgable about what makes for a great plan. Here are some key things to focus on with the plan:

  1. Be clear about the market you are serving and know (not guess) what their needs are. Too many companies continue to serve businesses that aren’t doing any better than they are. If the largest % of your customers are decreasing orders, it is time to re-evaluate who you are serving. Accomodate the external perspective.
  2. Establish a purposeful, performance-oriented culture. Yes, this is part of a plan. It is people who implement the plan and people who are the number one reason for poor execution. It is not enough to define values, but rather operationalize them in hiring, training, and promoting. Expect more from people, inspire them, hold them accountable and you will be amazed at the result. Be sure you address the following: Does your company have the ability to manage change? Do you have the right people with the right skill set? Do you involve the right people in the right decisions? Are actions between skill sets and values aligned? Do you have company wide alignment with priorities, in part accomplished through aligned resources? Culture matters a LOT!
  3. Create a vision for your company that is bigger than an objective. SWOTS and Rockerfeller habits are tools companies use to understand the market, or to improve execution. Good things to do. but they are not about helping to create a growth business model. Great companies tend to think in terms of the hill they want to sit on top of and it is more of a mountain. Apple is about “WOW” technology and they have traversed industries to do it–from computers to music to telecommunications and now entertainment. Each step included something that made consumers say “WOW” by re-thinking the way it is done and aligning it with consumer values. Do you think that when they did the ipod, they already were planning the ipad? Probably not. But they were getting great technology experts, setting up a culture of innovation with few restrictions on industry applications–much more focus on what would “WOW” people, add value to their lives and create the image of “this is cool and I am cool”. What is your big vision? The rest of the plan is about what you need to do to get started, and then it will be dynamic enough to evolve as you go on this journey.
  4. Incorporate the execution plan in the plan itself. The reason plans get dusty is no one knows exactly what the first step is or who is supposed to do what. Additionally, resources are rarely aligned to support the plan so people, departments, even leaders keep doing what they have always done and pretty soon, they have a “bad plan”. Figure out what changes happen on day one, align the budget to match the plan, set measures to track progress, assign accountabilities and milestone dates. The plan won’t be perfect and there will be setbacks and changes. Know what each of the moving parts should be doing, and when one changes, look at how it impacts the other. And don’t lower your vision, just come up with Plan B.

If we can help, by either explaining what we mean, or assisting you with making it happen, please let us know. Have a great 2011 and beyond!

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