Set Direction Align Actions to Goals

Engage your staff to align their every day tasks to company goals

Since I sold my business in 2007 I have worked with a number of talented entrepreneurs to rapidly grow their businesses. I’ve enjoyed sharing my 25 years experience but because I no longer have the pressures of running my own business I’ve been able to reflect on our decisions and actions and feel I’ve been much more objective about what is working and which strategies have added the most value. In this Blog I discuss how the ideas in my earlier Blogs and this presentation have been applied and what I’ve learnt.

In competitive fast growing markets the leaders of successful companies rarely have the time to work on their business as they are too busy working in it. This is a cliché but it is true. So what I’ve learnt over the past 3 years is to break down the business planning process into a number of sessions that range from an hour to 2 and 3 hours with a one day session to assemble “The Plan” and to work out how to execute it well.

Someone in my position has to coach the founder and CEO to step back during these sessions to both let the leadership team step up to work on the strategy of the business but also for the CEO to take a helicopter view of the business and see the bigger picture of how the business is creating value for its customers and achieving above average returns in the target market.

To support the process outlined in the presentation linked to above I created a Google Docs spreadsheet (using the one online spreadsheet avoids version problems and it can be used synchronously in f2f sessions or from geographically separate locations asynchronously) with a tab for each part of the process:

*Preparation *- a single place to record links or brief summaries of important input material (purpose, performance, assets) and the one page summary of the previous plan.

*Assessment *- a record of the issues, shortcomings, achievements and major opportunities facing the business that are worked on by the leadership team in a 3 hour session to arrive at the major goals and to conduct a SWOT analysis of the business.

*Risk *- the leadership team works on a prioritised list of the identified risks to ensure that the company has documented approaches to mitigate each risk.

Plan Summary – it is a long and exhausting days work to produce a plan that details goals for each major area of the business detailing the primary and enabling objectives together with measures, targets and approaches to achieve each goal. Individuals are identified for each key task to achieve each milestone. Once this is done the finance plan with budgets can be completed. Financial constraints and objectives may require a further plan iteration.

*Execution *- the probability of achieving any plan is significantly increased if the company empowers every person in the company to hold everyone else to account for what each person has committed to achieve in the plan. This tab has in one place the business goals, objectives, who benefits, who is responsible and how will the outcome be verified.

*Verification *-  for each goal what has been planned to be done and how will it be verified, what has been achieved and when.

*Review *- at the end of the planning cycle but before the next planning process begins each member of the leadership team records of their assessment of the process and identifies how or what needs to be improved.

What has been learnt

The entire process from the initial preparation session to the presentation and communication of the completed plan to all the staff (after the signed off execution plan) takes at least 5 weeks. The process should not be rushed. Each leader needs to run one or two preparation meetings with their team to record the team’s issues and receive the team’s input to the Assessment session. As the process unfolds it is important that each leader continues to inform their team about progress and sets appropriate expectations for the evolving plan. We have found that communicating with both customers and suppliers encourages them to contribute valuable ideas and expectations of the company. An open process where all stakeholders are engaged tends to ensure a realistic plan is produced and ultimately helps to maximise the company’s performance.