Planning to Make A Difference?
There is no mistaking the increased sense of confidence and, dare I say it, excitement as the economy apparently goes from strength-to-strength. There is even talk of pre-election tax cuts if things continue as they are.
The emphasis in client meetings has certainly changed - from efficiency and cost control, to growth and strategy implementation. There now seems to be a desire to invest and develop before competitors do, rather than a "wait and see if the recovery is sustainable" attitude.
Reflecting back on some recent work with clients, the key issues seem to be:
- How do we drive the growth of the business?
- How do we implement agreed strategies - particularly getting staff on board?
In a recent workshop with around 40 business leaders, there was a wide variation in the purpose, format and use of business plans and an equally wide range of views on their effectiveness. Perhaps not surprising given the entrepreneurial nature of those present - an eclectic mix of big picture people for sure. But take a step back and perhaps you can see the challenge of converting those big pictures into action on the ground, if there is no common agreement as to how plans form part of that.
We use a number of tools to help clients clarify their vision of the future, but often this is not the real issue. The challenge is more around communicating to and inspiring the team, and then sticking to the key messages to avoid making the picture go fuzzy. This occurs surprisingly often, particularly as some of the key strategies will appear to conflict if not properly explained. A focus on outstanding customer service, for example, can all too easily lead to over-servicing with a consequent negative effect on profitability - not really what was intended, I suspect.
Underlying this is the need to think of strategic implementation as a process, just as you would treat any other key business activity as a process. For example, our suggested timetable for review of plans at different levels within the business is as follows:
|Team problem solving||Yes|| || || || || |
|Team communication meeting|| ||Yes|| || || || |
|Sales Pipeline meeting|| || ||Yes|| || || |
|Personal One Page Plan review|| || || ||Yes|| || |
|Companywide strategic planning day|| || || || || ||Yes|
|Divisional One Page Plan review|| || || || ||Yes|| |
|Specific Project Plans|| || ||Yes|| || || |
Just like any other process it needs to be efficient and focussed on purpose - so agreed agendas and meeting times that are appropriate will be required, amongst other things. And like a process we want this to become habitual, so it drives the right behaviours continuously. A clear advantage of an approach such as this is the natural feedback loop that is created, allowing the leaders to retain a hand on the tiller and make timely course corrections to reflect what actually is happening in the business.
As our businesses grow, having a robust planning and review process will become increasingly important if we wish to avoid wasting increasing amounts of time and effort as the team diverges in myriad different directions. Maybe this is the last moment of calm before the growth storm hits and a great time to put a structured planning process in place that will make a real difference to reaching your vision.Will AbbottHead of Business Advice and StrategyRandall & Payne LLP
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