Business Planning

Business planning is critical for success though it often is undervalued because it is rarely done consistently enough and with enough clarity and follow through.  

In part three of my series on clarifying your company strategy, we look at how business planning for short- mid- and long-term goals can be correctly implemented and make your projects both easier to accomplish and successful. To be clear, the planning we are talking about takes place every 90 days without exception. There is a clear process for sufficient reflection on the previous 90 days while the majority of the time is spent on planning for the next 90 days. 

Let’s reflect on why we should plan in the first place.

Why Implement Business Planning

Yes, you’ve heard this a million times but how would you currently rate the quality, consistency, clarity and accountability around your business planning efforts? Most of us know we should be planning more but because it isn’t as urgent as other daily or weekly activities it often gets pushed aside. So let’s begin by evaluating why you should plan when you are already extremely busy. 

Here are the top five reasons why it’s important to clearly plan and re-plan your objectives every 90 days:

  1. Keep Up With a Rapidly Changing Business Environment: The business world is dynamic and constantly evolving. As an evolving company, you need to keep up with these changes to stay competitive. By planning and re-planning your objectives every 90 days, you can adjust your strategies and goals to respond to the organic changes in the business environment.
  2. Ensure Alignment with Long-term Vision: While short-term business planning is essential, it is also important to ensure that the company’s goals are aligned with its long-term vision. By planning and re-planning your objectives every 90 days, you can ensure that your short-term goals remain aligned with your long-term vision.
  3. Measure Progress & Adjust Strategies: By setting short-term objectives, you can measure progress more frequently and adjust strategies accordingly. This helps to ensure that you are on track to achieve your long-term goals.
  4. Stay Focused & Motivated: Setting and achieving short-term objectives helps to keep the team focused and motivated. When you see progress towards your goals, it can inspire a sense of accomplishment and help to maintain momentum.
  5. Improve Communication & Collaboration: Planning and re-planning your objectives every 90 days can also improve communication and collaboration within the team. It provides an opportunity for team members to share their ideas and perspectives, and to align their efforts towards a common goal.

Growing companies need to clearly plan and re-plan their objectives every 90 days to keep up with a rapidly changing business environment, ensure alignment with long-term vision, measure progress, adjust strategies, stay focused and motivated, and improve communication and collaboration.

How to Plan

Many people I work with are happy to invest in the effort of business planning but they haven’t found a way to plan that feels both valuable and consistent. Planning is a critical aspect of business success, and in this blog, we will be exploring how to plan effectively and consistently. Let’s uncover why a business planning process is both simple and effective.

The planning process has three key steps: Prepare, Plan, and Retain. Each of these steps is essential to the success of the business planning process, and when executed correctly, can help ensure that your business stays on track and achieves its goals.

Step 1: Prepare

  • The first step in the business planning process is to prepare. This involves gathering all the necessary information and data to inform your planning. The first thing you need to do is revisit your business’s vision, strategy and goals documentation – the things we put into the Declarations and Enterprise Value Strategic Plan tabs of the BOS spreadsheet in last week’s blog.
  • It is important to point out that this content assumes you have already undertaken a significant amount of strategy planning and the likely challenge is how to not let the plan collect dust, ensure there is sufficient learning from past performance and the right adjustments are made for the upcoming period.  
  • If you don’t have much clarity on or belief in your company’s strategy details feel free to contact me to provide more support on this topic.  
  • The review should help you reinforce the details of what you wish to achieve in the short term and long term. Once you have re-primed your mind with a clear vision and goals, you need to identify the likely current critical success factors that will help you achieve them. These success factors or objectives don’t need to be fully clarified regarding key results and timelines but they should allow you to organise a list of likely topics for discussion during the next meeting.
  • The second part of the preparing process is asking each attendee to prepare three things for the meeting:
  • First, what is the biggest win for them or their team over the past 90 days? It is easy to forget all the things we are accomplishing as we go after the prospective objectives. This pushes team members to identify meaningful wins and share them with the rest of the team.
  • The second thing is to identify what isn’t working well enough or is a significant bottleneck for their team or the company. We want people to really think about this and feel responsible to contribute meaningful ideas for the meeting. We ask for these ideas in advance of the meeting in order to add their ideas to the quarterly meeting spreadsheet.  
  • The third thing we ask of all attendees is to identify what they want to achieve in the meeting. They are going to be spending nearly a day of their time at this meeting and we want to be sure we know what they want to take away. Sometimes the desires are as simple as to clarify and update their and the company’s goals and objectives. Other times it is to be sure a specific issue is addressed with a clear plan of action as an outcome. Regardless, it is always good to encourage people to think about what they want in advance rather than just showing up without determining whether they got what they most needed from the meeting.

When the company’s strategic information has been reviewed and brought to attention and the attendees have contributed their points, you are now ready to have a productive meeting.

Step 2: Your Business Planning Meeting 

Although some companies may choose to have a slightly longer annual planning meeting, most business planning meetings are quarterly meetings so we will focus on that in this program.

The agenda for the business planning meeting can obviously vary from company to company and meeting to meeting. However, the basic premise should remain roughly the same. Here is the core agenda for most quarterly meetings:

It begins by clarifying what is and isn’t working within the company, along with the desired outcomes for the meeting. This helps to define the core themes for the meeting. My favourite is the early list and discussions on what are some of the current bottlenecks within the business.  

The next agenda item is to review the previous quarter’s numbers and rocks, or objectives. Just having experience with a skill set or trying to obtain something doesn’t create any meaningful value or likelihood of improvement over time. Only when you add reflection into the process do you create the space to observe, contemplate and make any required adjustments. This is our time to reflect on the past performance.

This is done in two fundamental ways: First is reviewing some type of financial reports and the 90 days of the company scorecard. Discussing what worked and what didn’t helps sharpen the focus on the issues and opportunities that we will want to focus upon in greater detail later in the meeting.

The second part of the reflection process is to assess the results of the rocks, objectives or projects for the quarter. In doing so we look at four questions and have the owner of the project submit their information so we can review them together. The questions are:

    1. What was the completion definition?
    2. What was the actual result?
    3. Are the outstanding action items on track?
    4. Are there any lessons learned?

The owner also has an open invitation to share any supporting documentation they’d like to cover during the review process.

The third item of the agenda is to review and remember what the company stands for and what the basic strategy is to achieve its goals.

The fourth agenda item is to identify the core objectives for the upcoming 90 days. This list of objectives is not finalised but gets to the point where it seems like they are addressing the key deliverables, opportunities and issues the company needs to address in the short term.  

The next agenda item is to identify the challenges that are likely standing in the way of achieving the objectives.  This is often the biggest chunk of time in the entire meeting.  This is the time of the quarter when you have the right people unpacking the most important issues with a sufficient amount of time and space to get down to the nub of issues and define a clear solution strategy to resolve the issue fully.  

The next to last agenda item of the meeting is to revisit the list of goals, objectives and/or rocks for the upcoming quarter, see if anything needs to be adjusted as a result of the issues discussed and to assign ownership to the items along with a “completion definition” in order that everyone is clear on what specifically is expected to be accomplished.  

The final agenda item of a quarterly meeting is to review the tasks that have come from the meeting and for all the participants to rate the quality and productivity of the meeting. Like with all activities in business, there should always be a desire to identify ways to improve – even quarterly meetings! 

Step 3: Affirming the Process

This retention of information and objectives shows up in the weekly meetings and will continue throughout the subsequent 90 days.

How this is done will be covered in my upcoming blog on weekly meetings.

By following the Prepare, Plan, Retain process, you can ensure that your business stays on track and achieves its goals. Remember to gather all the necessary information and data, develop a detailed plan of action, and monitor progress regularly. With these steps in place, you can take your business to the next level.

How to Plan Consistently

The importance of planning consistently cannot be understated. 

Business Planning is a critical element of success, but it’s not always easy to be consistent with it. Consistency is key because planning isn’t a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process that requires regular attention and revision. Here are some strategies that you can use to plan consistently:

  1. Set aside a specific time each quarter for planning

One of the easiest ways to plan consistently is to make it a habit. Set aside a specific time every 90 days for a quarterly meeting and stick to it. Make it a non-negotiable appointment.  

  1. Use the BOS Quarterly Meeting Cheat Sheet

The sheet, the final tape of your Business Operation Spreadsheet, provides you with a basic agenda and all of the different items that need to be documented and discussed.  It will both help you be organised for the meeting and retain the information within the spreadsheet for quick reference.

  1. Hold yourself accountable

Accountability is essential when it comes to planning consistently. Find an accountability partner who can hold you accountable and help you stay on track. If you like the idea of having someone else facilitate this process so you can r focus on the content of the meeting, please reach out to us to see how we can support business leaders in this way.

Consistent business planning is critical to achieving your goals. By setting aside a specific time for planning, using a planner or business planning software, breaking down your goals into smaller tasks, holding yourself accountable, and celebrating your successes, you can create a habit of planning consistently.

Remember, business planning is not a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process that requires regular attention and revision. Consistent planning will help you stay on track and achieve your business goals.

Module Support Material 

Clarify the effectiveness of your current business planning strategy by answering the following simple questions:

Engagement Exercise – 5-Question Quiz

  1. Do you invest one day every quarter to planning with your management team?
  2. Do you have a clear process for working through the quarterly planning process?
  3. Does your team rate the quality of the meetings as high?
  4. Do you review the key aspects of the previous quarter’s performance during the meeting?
  5. Is the majority of time spent on discussing and resolving the main issues and opportunities for the company?

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