Where is your company going next year? Do you have a clear idea, or are you leaving it to some unplanned direction? If you have not articulated where you are going, how on earth, are you going to get there? Working hard is not good enough. Will ‘fate’ take care of your company? How well did ‘fate’ take care of things, last year?
You can control your fate with much more positive growth results than you might ever have thought possible. How? By taking the time to step back and, with your team, institute a process, which includes: (i) Set aside two days for your core team to plan. (ii) In the planning meeting, take a good look at where you are. (iii) Decide, within practical limits, of where you want the company to go (i.e. grow). (iv) Figure out by practical brainstorming with your team of how you’re going to get there. (v) Create a written result or action list of what has to be done, clearly indicating by whom, and by what date for each needed action. (vi) Over the coming year, monitor the results, month-by-month to make sure you are on plan, or that your plan can be adjusted as new major factors enter the equation during the year.
Taking Time to Plan
In this paper, I suggest that stage (i) of the process, ‘Taking Time to Plan’ is the most difficult of all. By comparison, all the other steps are easy. The leader of the company needs to take the initiative to control the company’s future by assembling the people, who know the company best – the key employees. Their steps are as follows:
• Decide yourself to move forward with planning.
• Approach your team and get their endorsement or buy-in for the planning session idea.
• Choose a date far enough down the road that all your team can be present.
• Allow your team two days for the planning session itself.
• Decide to hold it outside of your office – at the leader’s home or at a local hotel, for example.
• Appoint people for key roles such as (a) someone to organize the event, and (b) someone to document the resulting plan and (c) someone to lead the process.
• Appoint someone to investigate outside assistance for planning, such as any of: online guides; listening to your own executives who may have had experience at previous companies that conducted annual planning sessions; attending a planning information seminar; or engaging an outside planning expert.
• Prepare yourself by setting up an agenda for the planning session.
In concept, the Plan process is simple enough. Its agenda attempts to resolve a few basic questions:
• Where are we now?
• Where do we want to go next year? (What result are we seeking?)
• What factors will play a role over the next year?
• How will be get there, taking all those factors into consideration?
• Define the concrete steps that we have to take to make that result happen.
That then is how we suggest you go about handling your own planning.
At this point, I wish you all the best in pursuit of making a solid move forward.
For those keen on learning more, below is a typical agenda:
Agenda - Day 1
• 9 am to 9:30 am Lay out the rules for the session (such as not
interrupting the speaker, and listening to each person carefully)
• 9:30 to 10:00 am Understand and list each participant’s reasons for
attending the session, and what each person expects to get out of the session to judge it as personally successful
• 10 am to 11 am What is the mission statement of the company? (to
make sure that planning stays within the bounds of that mission). It might involve articulating a brief mission statement if one does not exist.
• 11 to 12 Decide where the company is now and how it has
progressed (in sales, for example) over the past 5 years. What are its prices, profits, its margins, its different business streams? (Only if available)
• 12 to 1:00 Lunch
• 1:00 to 2:00 Where do we want to go? What is a reasonable goal for
next year? This should be, for example, about a 15% increase in sales. What about prices, profits, margins and business lines? What consensus do we have for this forward direction?
• 2:00 to 3:00 What advantages do we have? Weaknesses? What is
our competition like?
• 3:00 to 4:00 What internal and external problems are we facing?
At this stage, list these problems only; do not
debate them or try to resolve them; otherwise the meeting will become hopelessly bogged down. Be patient and take the time to list them all.
Agenda - Day 2
• 9 am to 10:00 am How are we going to get there? First, we have to deal
with current issues before we can create any new plan. Spend the hour prioritizing the problems listed above, so that this meeting can deal with the more urgent ones.
• 10 am to 12:00 pm One by one, address the problems and if not solving
them, deciding whom amongst you will solve them, and by what date an answer will be provided for each. Ensure you have an action list. (What, who, by when?)
• 12:00 to 1:00 pm Lunch
• 12:00 to 2:00 pm Continue problems solving. Stop the ‘solving process’
now (at 2 pm), in order to complete the rest of the Plan. If desired, arrange a date for another ‘problem-solving’ meeting of the group or key members of the group.
• 2:00 to 3:00 pm Putting the above data together, construct a financial
overview of the Plan for the next 12 months. Look ahead two years if you can.
• 3:00 to 4:00 pm Wrap up, consisting of:
• Finalized action list
• Month-by-month financial spreadsheet for the next year, including cash flow
• Changes of business streams, if any
• Changes in strategy, if any
• Additions needed in staffing
• Changes needed in capital expenditures
• Judge the success of the session by reviewing the personal goals laid out at 9:30 a.m. of Day 1 to see if a majority of them were achieved
• Set a date 2 weeks hence for a draft of the written Plan to be ready
• Set a date for next year’s planning session
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