The costly modus operandi of many business owners and professionals is reacting to whatever happens. Emergencies do occur in the real world and you are compelled to cope with them. However, have you noticed that people who have no plan for the day let alone a plan for marketing, sales, client care, or
product development, for example, seem to be the biggest attractors for chaos and emergencies?
Recently I was talking to an attorney who was interested in attending a workshop I was presenting, “Running Your Business on Purpose.” He had just left a large practice to start his own law firm. To get an idea about his interests and his challenges in his law practice, I asked him “What are your goals for your practice? What plans do you have in place now?” After a long
pause, he said “I don’t have any goals. I just show up and try to get the work done.”
The chances of this young attorney creating a thriving law practice are significantly diminished. Turn that around to say, his chances of creating a thriving law practice would be significantly increased with a clear vision for which he has passion and specific, reasonable goals with plans to reach them. At this point, he has none of these tools for his business. I was disappointed that he chose not to attend the workshop.
Working without a plan puts these roadblocks in your path
• Your efforts have no purpose
• Work is for the sake of work not to create specific results
• No measurements are in place to provide feedback
• There’s nothing to celebrate because you don’t know when you’ve won
• Opportunities to improve the way you do business are missed
• Isolation is the norm for workers
• Accountability is unimportant
• Critical communication among teams, workers, and supervisors is minimal
• Valuable time is lost reacting to circumstances
It’s easy to see why people are reluctant to take the time to develop road maps for success. It takes time away from the day-to-day activities of business. Productivity can suffer in the short term and results from the planning process are not evident immediately.
Leaders that have the responsibility for bottom line results often have no expertise in planning. In some cases the desired objective looks impossible to achieve.
When past plans have not been implemented, it’s understandable that people have low expectations for new plans. When dead wood and dead weight are on the team, moving a plan forward is more difficult if not impossible. In the beginning the path to success is not clear especially with complex, long range plans.
Now that we’ve acknowledged some reasons why people don’t plan, what does it take to create a road map for your success? Where do you start? Have you positioned your business to be successful as our economy rebounds?
First, recognize that creating a thriving business begins with a passionate vision. Use your emotion, intuition, creativity, wisdom to articulate what you intend to create with the people in your business. Your vision comes from your “heart place.” According to Jim Collins in Good to Great, Kimberly Clarke is passionate about making toilet paper. What are you passionate about?
Where do you intend to be in five to ten years? Courageously stake out the high ground and paint a vivid, emotional picture of what it looks like. What do you intend to create together in your business? Write your shared vision in the present tense. It’s already a done deal. You see it clearly. You experience the exhilaration. Put yourself in the place of having achieved your shared vision.
Without focused, intentional action, your heartfelt emotional vision won’t get you very far. The next step is to employ your logical, linear, analytical mind to create a plan to bring your vision into reality. You'll have to design your
road map for success. They don't come prepackaged and premeasured.
Use these simple steps to create your road maps for
• Get clear about where you are currently. What is your current reality? If you don’t already have the matrices in place to give you this information, create them. Facts are just facts.
• Determine what goals/objectives/initiatives will bring you closer to your shared vision. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your vision won’t be either. I recommend to my clients they select 2 to 3 goals to focus on for a 90 day period. Overwhelm is a trap that sabotages execution of plans and achieving goals.
• Engage everyone in your organization in the process of visioning and goal selection. If it’s impossible or impractical to involve everyone in the process, communicate clearly to the leaders responsible for achieving the goals what the goals are. Be clear about why it is important to them and to the organization to achieve these goals.
• Develop the step by step written plan to achieve your goals. In 1954 Peter Drucker called this process “management by objectives” or MBO in his landmark book, The Practice of Management. The simple genius of this approach is that everyone on the team responsible for achieving the goal has responsibility for accomplishing the action steps by the target date.
• Place the responsibility for developing the plan with the people who are going to implement it. Remember that there are infinite possibilities to reach the end result. If there are any parameters, spell that out in the beginning. Allow the implementers to use their creativity in developing the plan.
• Track and monitor progress with people responsible for executing the plan. This assures communication throughout the organization and at all levels. It also increases accountability without blame. If you need to tweak the plan, do so. As you move forward, your actions will inform you of what needs changing. Incorporate the changes in your plan and keep moving.
• Assess your results at the end of your time frame and celebrate. Ninety days is the time frame I recommend. The possible outcomes: You achieve the goal, made progress on the goal or chose to abort the effort. You can see what worked and what didn’t work. Time to reset and choose the next goals to bring you closer to your shared vision.
Antagonist Acknowledges the Value of the Planning Process
I am reminded of working with a large congregation on a five year strategic plan. One of the members of the board of directors was resistant to the idea of written plans to which he and others would be held accountable. He was very articulate in expressing his disdain for the idea of using business principles in a non-profit organization and especially a church.
After several months into the process, we were beginning to see the results of the goals we had set and the action we were taking. For example, the congregants were wearing new name tags and a system for quickly incorporating new members into the life of the church was increasing attendance.
At a board meeting when the outspoken board member acknowledged “I came kicking and screaming into this process but now I can see how valuable it is,” I nodded slightly in agreement. What fun to see the staunchest antagonists become the strongest advocates!
It is an ongoing process of defining goals and making plans to each your goals that lead to your shared vision. Your challenge is to keep the process dynamic and balanced. By using both emotion and logic, you strengthen the process of running your business on purpose. Keep your head and heart working together in a dynamic dance. Remove roadblocks and create road maps for your success.