It’s that time of year again when businesses focus on producing next years plan. But before just diving in companies should consider if there is a better, simpler way of creating and implementing the 2016 plan. Here are the main options to consider.
Option 1. Do the same thing as last year
The “easy” option but before taking it ask these two questions.
- Did most people in the company understand and implement the plan?
- Are you achieving the key objectives in the 2015 plan?
If the answer to both questions is a strong yes then great – you don’t need to read this any more. But what if you didn’t give two yes’s?
Option 2. Get a new plan template
The temptation is to give an unfortunate employee the task of creating a new plan template. It’s often a really hard job because many people who don’t like the process or find it hard to complete will blame the one who created the template. It could even prove to be career limiting.
The safer option is to search Google for some templates, however something different might not be better. What works for one company does not work for all companies. You still need something for your company’s specific needs. It would be even better if it reduced the amount of “opinion” in planning discussions and replaced it with some solid knowledge.
Option 3. Don’t start with a template
In my experience the main reason that employees don’t understand or implement a plan is that there is too much focus on the template and not enough on the process. I’ll cover different aspects of the process in other articles but for now I’ll focus on what I’ve found to be the most important driver for success at the front end.
The best way to kick off a planning process is to getting as many employees as you can to contribute to it. This is a key step to getting buy in later as well as ultimately getting a better plan.
I’ve found that one of the most effective ways to do this is to focus on the one thing that has the most impact on the whole company – customers. Customers touch every department either directly or indirectly but few organisations ever manage to get a cross organisational view of how customers impact the business. This along with different ways of measuring success leads to conflict for example between Sales and Finance or Operations and Logistics.
How to get employees talking about customers
Start by asking employees one question. Describe the “perfect” customer in less than five words. This can be done in 30 minute brainstorming meetings. Start with the management team but be sure to get a strong independent moderator to bring out the best insights and to keep it focused. Brainstorming sessions can be used across the business but I strongly recommend ensuring that most have cross functional representatives who then get the added value of seeing what’s important to other departments too. Wider employee engagement can be via surveys and team meetings. Collating the results will deliver a view of the business never seen before.
This process can be completed in most organisations within two weeks and leaves an important legacy of different departments talking to each other about customers. The process provides key information about which types of customer to focus on and also identifies issues that need to be addressed within the plan. Tie that with some customer interviews and you have a check and balance for your strategies and objectives.
Communicating the plan
Adding the knowledge about perfect customers to what the business wants to achieve provides most of the contents for the plan. The challenge is how to communicate this plan throughout the business so that it can be consistently implemented and form a reference and anchor point for decision making.
Whatever you used while collating the information for the plan and it’s supporting documentation don’t use those tools to communicate the plan to all employees. An all company PowerPoint presentation will not do it either.
Employees won’t read more than one page and want something that’s easy to understand and carry around to refer to. My way of achieving this is a one page Mindmap that contains all of the key information in the 2016 plan that they need and none that they don’t need. The MindMap has a structure but it’s heavily tailored to the specific needs of the organisation. It’s also a great tool to cross check the plan content to ensure that every aspect of the plan is in sync.
My approach is to send every employee their own colour copy of the plan as well as putting it on posters throughout the organisation. One of my clients described it as an internal Marketing campaign. I think they were absolutely right.
There are other articles and blogs on my website on the topics of business and marketing plans. More are coming out this month. If you would like new documents on this topic emailed to you on first release just email me firstname.lastname@example.org