In a recent blog post (10 Reasons to Update Your Business Plan - Why, When & How), we outlined why and when to update your business plan, in this post we'll talk about how to update and manage it. Remember, these ideas are the same whether your plan is for financing purposes, strategic planning or business operations purposes. Good planning ensures your plan because a useful management tool.
To create plans that are effective management tools, I encourage my clients to:
Create a Vision that is tangible and measurable.
Vision statements that make you want to hug one another are nice, but they're hard to accomplish because they are open to interpretation. A vision such as: We will be the premier provider of widgets is a nice thought. But what does that really mean? How will we know when we've achieved that? Or more importantly, how will we even know if we're making headway towards it? To avoid this confusion, I suggest a company's vision is a specific target and one that is kept in everyone's mind every day. All company projects, expenditures, etc., need to be evaluated to ensure they support progress towards the vision. If they don't, why are you considering it or doing it?
To support this clarity and allow staff to easily evaluate their actions, a solid, classic definitive vision is Jack Welch's vision for General Electric when he was CEO there:Number 1 or 2 in every one of our industries -
Or fix it, sell it, or close it down.
There's no need to ask for clarification here. Every employee knew what the target was and what the next steps were if the targets weren't met. It wasn't open to interpretation. It was clear.
Create clear, SMART goals that move you towards your vision and that leave no room for interpretation when you create your plan.
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, and Timely. This is old-school, and most managers have heard of SMART goals, but few develop goals in a manner that is truly SMART. Why? Because it's not easy. To create SMART goals and to make planning clearer for my clients, I suggest they use this basic format:By __(insert a specific date here)__, (what will occur).
Ex: By December 31, 2017, all staff will be working out of the new Graham Street office.
What makes this technique so effective is simply this: Without having any additional information about this project, you can start to visualize what you would need to do if you were responsible for this goal before you could mark it (i.e., project) off as "Completed":You would need to ensure that in addition to the facility being ready all office support items (i.e., equipment, furniture, systems, software, etc) would need to be in place and operational. The goal can't be interpreted multiple ways; it says what the outcome or deliverable needs to be. As a manager, you can immediately start to identify various steps and sub-projects or goals that would need to be completed in order for this organizational goal to be marked "Completed." It's Specific; it isn't open to interpretation. It's Measurable; there are a number of ways to track progress towards the goal's completion. You could track the installation of equipment, furniture, software, as well as the consolidation of staff into the new office. It's Action-oriented in that there are clear actions that need to be taken. It's Realistic (without knowing more, you just have to trust me on this one!), but it is Timely; there's a due date. It's a S.M.A.R.T. goal.
When all goals are created in this same fashion, you immediately create a basic Company Business Plan Checklist of Goals & Projects that you and your team track each month or quarter:
- By September 30, 2016, complete the June-September quarter operations of the DurEX system.
- By November 12, 2016, go live company-wide with the DataNow backup system.
- By June 30, 20117, implement the Level 1 Technician program.
- By December 31, 2017 introduce the Region 4 Marketing Campaign in the Harrisburg and Lancaster markets.
(Note: Sub-goals would be created for each company goal to help create the individual Goal or Project plans.
Review the goals outlined in your plan at least once a quarter, if not every month, as a management/planning team.
If your plans aren't important enough to track at least quarterly, why develop them?
- If you're not monitoring the plan regularly, who is?
- Regular reviews provide opportunities to keep all planning members up to date on the plans' progress.
- Regular reviews allow for real-time plan changes given changes in budgets, regulations, the economy, competitors, the industry, etc.
- Regular reviews fuel motivation (yours and your staff's) as you track your company's progress towards or away from the various goals' completion.
- Regular reviews with your planning team and staff (as appropriate), ensure your employees are aware of and can better appreciate the work other departments and staff members are doing.
Update your plans annually.
If you have regularly reviewed and adjusted your plan, annual updates to the plan become much less stressful and less time-consuming. During annual updates:
- Conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats) analysis to determine if changes to your vision and mission are necessary. If so, update them.
- Review current goals to ensure they still align with the vision or revised vision. Revise them as necessary.
- Develop new SMART goals to keep you, your team and your company moving towards its vision.
- Share the goals with your team. They need to know how they fit in.
When you review and update your business plan regularly, it soon becomes an anticipated, brief agenda item at monthly or quarterly meetings. Also regular, brief but focused reviews help you and your team to develop strategic thinking skills so you can more quickly anticipate and respond to the potential ramifications of proposed projects, regulatory changes, competitor actions, etc. You are more knowledgeable of the plan and the business. And that's a great position to be in.
Copyright MMXVI, MMX Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC.