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Stop What You're Doing and PLAN!

Do you enjoy planning? It’s okay to say “no." For example, do you dread and put off getting your budget done? It’s okay to say “yes!" And, who has time for sitting in tedious strategy meetings, talking about what to do instead of doing it?

Some of us are natural starters and some are finishers. Put another way, some are planners and some are doers. However, as a small business owner or manager of a work unit, you have to be both, and many of us aren’t committed to the discipline of planning. Sorry to quote such a tired truism, but “those who fail to plan, plan to fail," at least subconsciously.

Over a number of years, I’ve made a common observation among a variety of managers: They find themselves reacting to the “unexpected." From my perspective, the circumstances or events to which they’re reacting aren’t necessarily unexpected, just unplanned.

For example, every business is going to experience employee turnover. So why is it an emergency when someone resigns? Maybe because we didn’t take the time (when we were fully staffed) to plan for the future, to troubleshoot what would happen if we were to lose so-and-so, to plan for the unexpected.

So, how does one plan for what one does not expect?

Let’s talk about mission. It may seem obvious, but let’s be honest and admit that not all companies have this foundation in place. A mission statement is a simple and succinct way of stating why your company exists. Most folks are familiar with IKEA (coming to Memphis this fall, by the way). Here is their reason for being:

The IKEA business idea is to offer a wide range of home furnishings with good design and function at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.

IKEA’s mission statement is simple. I’m guessing employees have no problem understanding it. Their mission lays the foundation for strategic planning in the short and long term. The strategy may change, but the mission remains the same.

Strategic planning is a large discipline involving many moving parts, but it doesn’t have to be complex for the small business owner. Again, planning is a discipline that requires intention and follow through. If you want an ornate, complex strategic plan, go for it, but don’t NOT plan because you think it’s too time-consuming. Keep it simple.

Here are some reminders to help you in your quest to be intentional in your planning and goal-setting.
  • Make it a team effort. Involve others who have the company’s best interests at heart but who may look at things differently from you.
  • Utilize an outsider. Using a third-party to facilitate the planning process offers you, the leader, the advantage of participating in the process alongside those who report to you.
  • Commit the time. Don’t try to complete a strategic plan during your regular weekly staff meeting. Carve out an adequate amount of time specifically for the purpose of thinking creatively and brainstorming.
  • No “bad” ideas. If you truly want to engage others in the brainstorming process, set the right tone so people are comfortable “thinking out loud." You’re not going to do everything everyone says, so who cares if it’s an off-the-wall idea?
  • Make sure it’s doable. Brainstorming is a great tool, but eventually you’ll have to turn the ideas into plans. Make sure your plan is realistic and supports your mission.
  • Define specific goals or action steps. Break things down into bite-size pieces in priority order. Make sure everyone knows who does what, when, and how.
  • Be flexible. The good thing about a plan is that it can, and probably will, change throughout the period it’s in effect.
Once you have your mission-driven strategic plan in place, the unexpected bumps in the road don’t have to be crises. Instead of reacting emotionally and reverting to panic when a key employee resigns, look at your overall plan. Was succession planning a part of your strategic plan? (It should have been!) Can you use this vacancy to somehow further your goals in a way in which you hadn’t previously thought? You know where you’re going so put this road bump in perspective and keep moving.

A source with good examples of strategic plans for different organization types is OnStrategy. Good luck!

Jennifer Blake is a Senior Consultant at The Centre Group, which helps clients achieve success by “Leveraging the Human Spirit” within their organizations.

Posted: 8/10/2016 3:04:30 PM | with 0 comments
Filed under: Blake, Centre, Goal-Setting, Group, Jennifer, Organization, Planning, The

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