So you have set the direction, now what?

If you are like me, you are sitting there, champing at the bit to get on with it.  You have just set your plan, you know what the goals are and you are getting pretty excited about it all.  The clarity is there, now let’s get out there and do it!


It is one thing to have gone through a great planning process and celebrate this.  It always surprises me how many SMEs in NZ don’t have a documented plan - so you are already ahead of much of your competition. You have set the ‘why’, now it is all about the ‘how’.

First step - draft in your team.  All going well, they already have an idea of the direction because you got them involved, you communicated key elements as they were being developed, no hidden secrets.

Your team are the experts of the different aspects of your business.  You may have the technical knowledge, heck that is quite possibly the reason you started this business in the first place.  But now is not the time to prove you know the details.  Engaging the team at this point is crucial.  They need to be able to take the plan and work out the details as it pertains to their job. 

Allow them the freedom to work out what is needed, what is working and what isn’t.  This is where you will find lots of gems, pots of gold that will improve your chances of success.  In time, this will be reflected in improved profit margins, better engaged staff, greater success. 

Get them to look at the systems and processes. Provide time as a whole team to step back and reflect on the positives from the past year - even if they weren't planned!   This will be a valuable process that will pay itself off quicker than you realise.  Capitalise on the learnings, document them, review your policies, procedures to reflect the changes. Set up processes to support the desired outcomes, not the other way round!

Reflecting on the things that didn't go as well as planned over the past year is just effective. Learn from the hiccups, was it equipment ?, IT support systems ? - do you need external advice to help guide you through the technical stuff.  It is OK to ask for help, even if it's a one off exercise.  How effective was the training? Are there skill or knowledge gaps missing that are required to achieve your plan? Bring in a HR expert, do the job descriptions need adjusting.  Critically, how did the communication flow  impact performance.  What did the team like / dislike during the past year? The biggest message - don’t let “this is how we do things” get in the way of achieving future goals.  Change will happen, so let your team embrace it, drive it, tell you what is needed to be successful.

Reviewing your operational performance against the proposed plan is key to ongoing success. Be open about it, involve everyone.  This is your one chance to do this well, to start how you want to continue in the future.

Set milestones, to achieve objectives in 12 months, where do you need to be in six months, three months.  Each step, breaking it down into more detail, actionable tasks. This leads onto how are you going to monitor your progress?  How is the team going to keep the plan alive? This seems so obvious, but how many times business owners actually go to the effort to make a plan, for it to only sit in the bottom draw, deep in the computer filing system. The only time it is brought out is when it’s time to set next year's plan!

This process may take a few sessions, that’s OK.  It may never be complete either, but don’t panic about that.  As long as the team has figured out the main components of how they will implement the actions, they will work it out as they go along.  Things will change, that is absolutely certain.  This is why as a team you need to consistently talk about progress.  What needs to be done, changed, reviewed.

The cliche “fail to plan, plan to fail” is there for a reason. The time spent with your team setting out the game plan for the year is an investment in your business.  It gives the team clarity on what is expected of them. Don’t treat this process as an expense, it will save you time and money many times over during the year.  Trust your team to make the right decisions, you will occasionally throw your ideas into the process or even make the deciding vote, that is OK.  As long as your team is actively involved in driving the details of the game plan.

Now you can get excited and start on your plan.


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