Is Business Planning a waste of time?
The end of the calendar year is fast approaching. Time for new years resolutions is almost upon us once again. It is the perfect time to sit down and set your strategic vision for 2017. Map out the pathway for the year ahead. Set goals and get inspired that this is THE year that you and your team are going to make things happen. Having a day or maybe two or three to sit down with your team and map it all out is definitely a worthwhile investment of time…..right? Or is it a complete waste of time?
So many of the organisations I have worked in and with make the mistake of putting so much time and effort into developing their business action plan. It gets sent around to all those that matter for approval. They are meticulous about every word that is used and several versions are created, each better than the next. It is then "PDFed” and placed in a folder on a shared drive never to be looked at again…. until next year. The strategic ACTION plan has evolved into a strategic thought. There is absolutely no action in it and no physical connection to people. It becomes merely words on a page.
Does this sound familiar to you? Have you experienced this before? Perhaps not to this extreme… maybe your strategic plan was valid for the first quarter but more often than not, we get caught up in the churn and our day-to-day tasks become reactive and short term focused. So if this is the case for so many of us, why do we waste our time doing it in the first place?
Well, because it absolutely is not a waste of time. It is an essential step towards success and productivity. It alows a team time and space to have important discussions about what the future looks like. Our world is changing so quickly. There are disruptors popping up in every industry and if your team and organization are going to be ahead of the game they need to be aware of the contextual and longer term risks. What is in your control and you can plan for? What is out of your control but you need to identify some mitigating strategies? Business planning keeps us focused and clear on what our priorities should be and what activities we should be shelving for the moment. However in order for this document to be all of these things, there are a few slight changes we need to make in the planning process.
1. Make the time for it:
I know that, for many teams, taking a full day away from the demands of your day-to-day tasks is a very daunting, if not impossible, chore. Realistically, strategy formulation will not take 1 full day workshop - it may take up to 3. Taking time away from desks, away from email, away from the churn is crucial to seeing the bigger picture. Getting an edge on our competitors requires thinking outside the box and thinking outside the box requires creativity and creativity requires time and space!
2.Make it a working document:
"Change is inevitable.” “The only constant in today’s times is change” . “Change is the law of life”. We all know this, yet we put so much time into a document that we expect to be just as relevant at the end of the year as it was at the beginning of the year. We expect our staff to be innovative and keep up to date with the changing environment around us, yet we don’t provide them with an updated framework to do this. Now, I am not suggesting that your strategy will require a total overhaul every quarter. However, we should be reviewing and tweaking it constantly. Ensuring that it is relevant and keeping us on the right track and focused on the right things.
3. Connect to it
Every single member of your team should have KPI’s that directly link to the strategic objectives. Any new task that is taken on should be directly linked to the strategic objectives. If it can’t be then you need to ask if they should be spending productive time doing it in the first place. This not only keeps everyone focused and clear about the goals but also provides staff with a sense of purpose. They feel connected to the bigger picture and can clearly see how they are contributing to the overarching vision of the team/company.
4. Own it
Set very specific objectives and very clear measurements. What gets measured gets managed. Make each individual accountable for his or her role to play in achieving the plan… the strategic ACTION plan.
So if you are about to sit down for a strategy off site or have already done so with your team, just remember to inject some ACTION into that business planning. I guarantee if you follow these 4 simple points that you will be amazed at what a useful and necessary document your strategy/ business action plan will become.