It’s that time of the season where we all roll into the New Year with the promise of a “fresh start”—whether it is a personal resolution to get in shape, be a better person, get rid of a bad habit, or a reexamination of your business to find ways to improve your top and bottom line in 2018. Unfortunately, often the process to improve your business ends up like your New Year’s resolution—you are back to the same old habits by the end of January.
What prevents most of us from applying strategic planning and thoughtful, focused execution to our businesses? Often, the main answers I get to that question are: “Strategic planning is for big companies. I don’t have time to take my team out of the business to plan. We need to hit the ground running in the New Year. I have an experienced team. They know what to do…..” And so on.
The reality is that good strategic planning (and the focused execution that should follow) is not a once every five years or even once a year exercise. Done right, strategic planning is a natural part of the way you manage your business, updated quarterly to semi-annually, and always looking forward 4 to 6 quarters. And, the right process and tools to do strategic planning enable you to make this recurring exercise a standard part of your business without sucking up your most valuable resource—your staff’s time and bandwidth. Strategic planning is NOT just for big companies. It is for any company that wants to grow and remain relevant (or even viable) in our fast-changing industry and global economy.
I like to use a 10-step Business Plan for strategic planning. I know 10 steps sounds like a lot, but there are no bonus points for length when it comes to Business Planning. This isn’t a term paper. A 10-step Business Plan provides the roadmap to look at your business and go-to-market model from every functional and partnership angle. It forces choices for you and your team—which are key to generating focus and alignment across your company. It actually brings to life clichés like getting the team “all rowing in the same direction.” In my next blog, I’ll briefly outline the 10 steps. I’ve used this in very large companies (Hewlett-Packard) to start ups (Print, Inc.) with equal success, so this isn’t just an exercise for the Fortune 1000.
Once you have a solid Business Plan, you have to turn that plan into an executable, measurable set of objectives, strategies, and metrics that run from top to bottom in the company. Everyone in the company should have focused objectives and key strategies with quantifiable metrics. Metrics are key. As Dave Packard famously said: “What gets measured gets done.” They should see how their daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly activities and efforts contribute directly to the success of the company. My favorite technique is to use Cascading Objectives. I will cover this tool set in more detail in a blog following the 10-step Business Plan.
2017 was an interesting, challenging, fun, stressful, (pick your adjective) year for most of us, and I expect 2018 will be no different. Make a commitment to put some effort into a Business Plan and Cascading Objectives early in the year, and you’ll find yourself using a list of adjectives to describe 2018 that is much more positive than negative!
Don't miss the next in Doug's series: Creating a 10-Step Business Plan.
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