Thursday, January 13, 2011

Executive Decisions part 4

And it all boils down to this: creating a strategic business plan. An action plan. A detailed roadmap to business success, populated with specific work to be done by named people by a certain date.

To get there, we've defined the nature of the company and its products. We've brainstormed what the company's future ought to look like. We've boiled that future vision down into the most important work that needs to get done. Perhaps we've also detailed the gap between where you are and where you'd like to be. Possibly you've taken the time to imagine everything that could go wrong and develop ways to prevent those obstacles or get the business back on track if they do happen. If so - awesome! All of that information can and must funnel into your plan.

The Strategic Timeline - your business plan needs to account for specific activities over the next twelve months. It should detail any and all of the following:

Marketing and Ad Campaigns
Any other known time-commitments or planned work-effort beyond daily "must-do" work*
Key dates - holidays, fiscal closes (especially if they impact the ability to do other work or projects), etc.

*A note about "keep the lights on" work. There MUST be a balance between the priority get-ahead work and the daily grind. Most people would prefer to put the bulk of their effort into growing the business - it can be exciting and it feels like you're really accomplishing something when you're working on it. But, by and large, the business stays in business because there are people at their desks doing the daily work to keep the customers happy. This is critical - I can personally attest to how frustrating it is when senior managers don't recognize how much of the work day is being spent on necessary, if boring, work. You don't want to put "spend 2 hours handling customer emails" on your Strategic Timeline, but if that work is critical to your business, don't you dare forget about it, either. It's a sure recipe for driving your staff crazy if you pretend they can spend 40 hours a week working on the exciting growth stuff and somehow the day-to-day work will just magically get done.

Once you've gathered all of that information, it's time to lay it out in order and plug it into your timeline. Watch in particular for places where you've got too much going on to realistically handle. Once the whole year is planned out, you're done - and your real work has just begun. It's time to get going on that plan. Bang out your goals and projects relentlessly, one after the next after the next until the year is over and they're all finished. Focus on your priorities and shove aside anything that's not a priority which threatens to drag you off course. If you made a Risk Mitigation plan, refer to it often and use it to avoid trouble. But most importantly, POST the PLAN. Make sure it's right there where you and your key staff will see it on a regular - preferably daily - basis. At your weekly staff meeting (you DO have a weekly staff meeting, right?), point to your Strategic Timeline and verify that you're still on track. Be flexible, of course - if you missed something big or circumstances changed, make adjustments to the plan so it's still realistic and actionable. But don't let up. Don't give up. Don't let the old ways, the easy ways, the chaos, pull you back in. Make your Strategic Plan your battle flag - let it lead your charge to more and greater successes. Let it influence every Executive Decision you make. It's your recipe for success - follow and cherish it.

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