Whew! It’s already the middle of September. The kids are back in school. There’s a crispness to the air in the mornings and the leaves are starting to turn. And business leaders everywhere are starting to think about planning for next year.
Whoa! Hold up there. “Next year?” you may be thinking, “I’m still working THIS year’s annual plan.”
And guess what - you are not alone!
Many leaders work intensely at the end of the year collecting data and holding team meetings. They create lofty plans with fabulous ideas. They get employee “buy-in” and management approval. At last, in a big meeting, with a massive sigh of relief, leaders present a beautifully designed document titled, “[insert year] Plan”.
And then … the plan gets filed, sometimes never to be heard from again. That’s never the intent, but in the fast pace of business, it can happen.
In an ideal world, leaders assess their plans on a regular basis. And yet, many don’t question the plan’s progress until the end of the year. Heck, if updating a strategic plan were easy, every business would do it weekly. Sometimes for organizations, this is the first time in the year they come back to the plan to evaluate progress.
If your company isn’t yet living in the ideal balance between planning and implementation, that’s pretty normal. We give you permission to go find that document, blow off the dust, and start to ponder. Take a deep breath. This need not be traumatic.
As you look at the plan you built for this year, think about these things:
Assess your performance – how are you doing on your targets?
Challenge your assumptions – were the assumptions you made about sales, or revenue, or expenses close to accurate? What new information has developed?
Critique your operations – are your current processes effectively achieving your goals?
Examine new opportunities that have arisen – is there anything new worth pursuing before the end of the year?
If this is the first time you’re looking at your yearly plan in a while, think about these questions:
How does your plan support your organization?
Does your plan make it easy for your staff to see how their work fits into the goals?
Does your staff have time in addition to their regular duties to work on the goals of the plan?
Have you built in milestones to help assess if you’re still going in the right direction?
When your strategic plan is a living, breathing thing, used as part of your regular operations, it provides a whole different level of impact to your business.
If this year’s plan hasn’t helped your organization move forward in a meaningful way, right now is the time to start thinking about how to make next year’s plan more usable.
Here are a few ideas:
Use everyone’s crayon in the picture.
The strategic direction provided by you and your executive team is valuable. At the same time, the more your staff is involved in the creation of the strategy and the implementation plan, the more they will be engaged and able to find ways throughout the year to put the strategy into practice.
Make sure you know who is responsible for what.
Objectives without clarity around who is responsible for executing them rarely get achieved. Everyone in your organization is busy. Help your staff know what is most important and how the initiatives fit with their other priorities.
The simpler the plan, the more likely the organization will use it as the tool it needs to be.
Plans that have more objectives than you have months in the year can be hard to execute. Consider creating an overview of your plan on one 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper so your team can hang it up and refer to it often to guide their everyday actions.
Determine how you’ll tweak the plan along the way.
Some organizations never create a plan as they are waiting to get the perfect information. Others keep a plan even if it no longer makes sense when unforeseen circumstances arise. It can help to purposefully create a plan that is an 80% solution, with a system to review and update it periodically during the year. Don’t go for perfect; go for adjustable, and give yourself the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances as needed.
Decide how to celebrate.
If your organization achieves the goals in your plan, what does that mean for your business? What kind of celebration would be appropriate for that achievement?
An annual strategy and goals can make the difference between status quo and growth. But only if you put that strategy into practice, consistently evaluate, and adjust. Then you have the greatest chance of achieving your goals.
If you would like to get support on creating an inspiring and achievable plan that allows you to increase your company’s impact, let’s talk.