Why Does Planning Fail?

Game Plan StrategyHow many times have you lived through it?  Late in the year, you are gathered with cohorts to build a business plan for the following year.  Your team invests many hours of thoughtful time strategizing and developing a detailed plan.  Everyone is tired but optimistic that the plan will lead to a big year.

12 months later, you gather again.  You dust off the plan (which hasn’t been referenced all year long) to see how you did!  Lo and Behold, you didn’t get most of the strategic objectives completed.

What’s happening here?  You’re all smart, hard-working people who are effective in many other areas.  The problem is that your planning system is missing important steps.

The most important part of a plan isn’t the strategy section; it’s the execution section.  What is the Plan to Execute?  We have found that getting hyper-granular with execution is the key to actual progress.  Let’s demonstrate with an example.

Your number one plan for 2017 is to develop an e-commerce site to sell your widgets online.  Your plan outlines the target market, the messaging, price points, operations setup, etc.  Nice Start.  Now to the important stuff.  What is the execution plan for Quarter 1 (first step in getting granular)?  Perhaps the biggest objective for Q1 is to hire a web design firm.  Good objective.  Now let’s get more granular.  What are the individual tasks required to hire a firm?  Develop a list of criteria that you desire in the firm.  Develop a list of candidates.  Develop a list of interview questions and other steps to assess each candidate.  Interview candidates.  Make a selection.  Negotiate a contract.  Good.  Now we have tasks.  Who is the accountable person for each task?  What is the due date for each task?  How often will the team meet to review progress and adjust the plan if necessary (We suggest at least monthly)?

The tasks listed above could all be broken down into smaller tasks by the accountable person, but you get the point.  By creating a plan in which each team member can review his task list every day to know what he or she must execute on, with an assigned due date, the plan becomes concrete rather than abstract.

We facilitate an annual and quarterly planning process with our clients.  We have found that the execution on those plans increases significantly if each objective is broken into tasks as suggested above.

Why does planning fail?  Because it doesn’t get granular.  How can your planning succeed?  Get granular!

Love the Ones You’re With

au bureau_0015It’s a natural tendency when growing a business to focus on obtaining new clients.  After all, isn’t that the way to take it to the next level?  Revenues can’t grow without new clients.

But too often we love the prospect more than we love the client.  We are so focused on the next opportunity that we forget to provide excellent service to our clients.  We don’t ask them for feedback.  We don’t show appreciation.  And some of our clients move on.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  A client had to develop trust in you, and find you credible, in order to hire you.  Once they have done so, they’ll look for reasons to confirm that they made a good decision.  It’s human nature.

Getting a new client is much harder than keeping an existing client.  To get a new one, you have to establish rapport, prove that you are credible, and build trust.  Then you have to convince the prospect that your product or service can solve their pain point.  You’ve already done ALL OF THAT with your current clients!

So just a little more communication with your clients will go a long way.  Ask for feedback.  Show appreciation.  If you screw up, apologize and tell your client what you’re doing to fix your mistake.

Sure, you’ve got to continue to fill a prospect pipeline, attract prospects online, or get customers to walk in.  But if you shift 10% of that effort to making sure that your “bucket of clients” doesn’t have a hole in the bottom, it will pay off big time.

Leadership Book Review: Extreme Leadership

Extreme_OwnershipLots of books about leadership have been written by academics of the field.  Others still by retired business executives with impressive resumes indicating they were good leaders.  But this is the first Leadership book I’ve read by authors whose decisions were literally life and death.  The authors, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, were the officers commanding the SEAL platoon that included sniper Chris Kyle of American Sniper fame.  They now run a highly successful Leadership Development consulting firm.  Their bona-fides to write this book are pretty darn good.

Extreme Ownership applies military concepts to the business world.  Each concept is explained in detail.  Next, an example of its application in actual battles in Iraq is discussed.  Finally a true example of the concept in a business setting is discussed.  It’s a strong learning technique.

The overriding theme of the book is that Leadership should be found at EVERY level of an organization.  A culture where everyone up and down the chain of commend takes complete ownership is the cornerstone of superior performance.  If your team is not performing at a high level, who owns the problem?  You do!  You hired the team, trained the team, and lead the team.  But your team should also own the problem!  They should own the fact that they didn’t provide feedback, and didn’t drill hard enough to ensure that they could perform at a higher level.

One of the best examples in the book is a story from BUDS, the SEAL’s training program near San Diego.  The leader of a raft team that had been consistently finishing last in races complained to the instructors that he had a bad team.  They wouldn’t try harder and pull together as a team.  The instructors swapped him out with the leader of the raft team that had been winning virtually every race.

You guessed it; his “bad team” won the very next race.  But the story doesn’t end there.  The weak leader’s new team, which had been winning almost every race came in second.  Why did this happen?  Because their former leader had instilled a culture of extreme ownership in the team.  In essence, they carried their weak leader to a second place finish.

A great read.  See on Amazon.