Nimble Companies Plan for the Quarter in Today’s Economy

The days of the 100 plus page annual business plans have ended. Business dinosaurs might continue to produce them, but they won’t for long as they follow the original dinosaurs into oblivion. Let’s face it; in the old business planning process, which began by gathering data over the summer for next calendar year’s plan, was hopelessly out of date even while it was still in use.

How can we possibly know what will happen in detail some 15 months from now? We can’t. More importantly, how can we expect ALL our employees to know what the critical business elements are in all that paper? Again, we can’t.

The time has come to radically change your business planning model. A number of our clients are moving to a quarterly planning model using the Gazelles One Page Strategic Planning tool. This keeps their plan fresh and vibrant. It also allows them to take advantage of near term opportunities in the market place and, sometimes more importantly, respond real time to threats.

How does a company make the shift from the old sluggish business plan to a new more nimble process? At Vital Growth Consulting Group we have a migration path available for you and your company. As you can imagine, having a solid foundation in place is critical for the process to be effective. We believe that foundation, at a minimum, consists of Core Values, Brand Promise and BHAG (long term goal).  Our thanks to Jim Collins for his work in this arena.

With those items in place and as your business base, you can then determine what next quarter’s priorities are. We find the best way to accomplish this is in a facilitated meeting with your management team. Having a handful of good minds batting around the business issues consistently provides the most robust solutions. Using an experienced facilitator/coach involved in the process provides both guidance and an outside business perspective. We suggest that you pick no more than five quarterly priorities and designate one as the top priority for that quarter.

We have all seen what happens when there are too many items on our “to do” list. Usually we try to knock the majority of items off them. Often times the completed ones are not the most important. The main items are usually big and/or difficult and require more time and effort than we have at any one point in time. So we consistently spend time getting the less valuable ones done. That’s human nature and it applies to the folks that work for us too.

Once the top five priorities and top one of five are agreed upon we must develop a plan to inform all employees. We want everyone in the company to understand the quarterly priorities so it is important to have, and execute, a robust communication plan. Some clients will try the process internally with the management team for a quarter or two to work out bugs before bringing in the entire team. Others jump in with both feet.

Of course for priorities to have teeth they must be specific, have one person responsible for getting them done (that person often has others to assist them) and have a target due date with regular progress reviews. Sometimes priorities require additional resources and occasionally they run into major obstacles. Regular top management review helps to overcome those issues.

We think of the Quarter as a thirteen week race. Arriving at the handful of important priorities every three months keeps your company focused on the most important matters. The BHAG provides you and your team with the compass reading so you can ensure that your quarterly priorities are always moving you north.

Take an important step toward making your company more nimble in this difficult economy. Get a leg up on your competition. Contact us at Vital Growth Consulting Group (www.vitalgrowthllc.com) to see how we can help you more effectively accomplish your goals.

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