It’s that time of the year - a new fiscal calendar for many and likely with it new targets, new goals and maybe even new strategies. Everyone is excited or in some cases apprehensive, while the market as always continues to morph and change at an ever-quickening rate, and yet everyone yearns for a great year ahead! But how? What is that special magic that keeps an organization together through the up’s and downs, performing competitively and consistently, and able to capitalize on the strategic opportunities while warding off both expected and unexpected challenges. Read on…
In many respects a new fiscal year (annual) plan is effectively a set of resolutions (just like personal resolutions that so many of us make at the beginning of the calendar year). But we know from personal experience that it’s very difficult to maintain personal New Year’s resolutions. And in truth many companies, and managers within companies, find it hard to stick to an agreed plan and hold an organization (and themselves) accountable to the results. So how can these business resolutions (plans) become ingrained into an organization, consistently actioned throughout the year, and celebrated on their successful completion? Well, in its simplest form it takes two things - leadership and discipline. And also in my experience a little sprinkling of patience just for goodwill!
Leadership is required to garner the creative forces of an organization to create a well thought-out, well organized plan that accesses the creative powers of all key stakeholders. It’s well known that a plan simply handed down from senior management that does not have inputs and consideration of key employees will often fail. No one likes to be told what to do in this age of renewed employee empowerment. Being a very keen advocate of this key management skill myself, I consistently see employee empowerment as one of the best ways to unleash an organization’s belief in itself, and thus tap into the creative ideas and suggestions that senior management may never figure out in isolation. So consider having the ‘plan-generating’ work be a combination of senior management led ideas, in conjunction with a solid and consistent input from key employees. Then marry both together and have a co-joined plan that is both strategic in nature, but also holds the essence of great tactical implementation through appropriate buy-in from all.
One of the questions I often get asked is, “Does leadership mean making all the key decisions for a team or organization?” Certainly a key question and no one size fits all here. Consider a simple rule that states that the vast majority of company decisions should be made by people outside of the Senior Team. Also consider adhering to the best coaching advice I ever received which was “only do the things that only you can do!” It’s a simple saying with deep meaning and incredible consequences to your leadership style if you choose to follow it faithfully. In essence it’s all about empowerment at the deepest level. It’s also about freeing yourself to make the decisions and do the things that only you can make. Imagine if you NEVER did anything over the next 12 months if there was someone else in the company that could do it as well or even better than you. How much time would that free up for you?
And then (and very thought-provokingly) what would you do with this new found time? It’s in asking these types of questions that the true magic of leadership resides.The ability to free your mind of day-to-day mundane activities that sap your strategic and creative visioning. By freeing yourself, you will likely find that you are also unleashing your team at the same time. Truly a win-win situation!
Discipline is the catalyst that binds everything together and keeps you going in your chosen direction, even although events, people, markets and a multitude of internal and external forces construe to nudge you off track. But stay the course. See it through. And through this tenacity, you will develop a skill that will have benefits in all areas of your work and personal lives. Remember that discipline in business also points to having robust, highly-useable processes that are not burdensome in nature. Consider having “nimble-processes”, ones that are as light and as uncomplicated as possible, that staff can easily learn and remember without referring to complicated documents. Processes are simply tools to harness creativity and mental output in a logical, efficient way.
Consider these 9 time-tested tips when creating your next annual business plan, and allow them to forge an unbreakable New Year’s resolution:
1. Seek buy-in from all stakeholders in addition to actively soliciting their inputs before the plan is finalized.
2. Empower your staff to the point where you simply cannot empower them any more. This is a great example of both leverage and leadership in action.
3. Don’t expect perfection - business is simply too unpredictable and complicated for perfection. As the old saying goes “don’t polish the cannonball!” It can often take the same amount of time for the 99% result as it does for the remaining 1%!
4. Course correct throughout the year - but not too often. Build checkpoints into your annual planning calendar to encourage periodic checks and balances. It’s ok to change but try and not change so often that the plan becomes unrecognizable for the original start-of-year plan.
5. Focus on outcomes and not action - it’s the clear articulation of outcomes that allows both a strategy and a plan to be created. It’s actions delivered consistently that create the outcomes. Don’t leave anything to chance here - consider applying SMART outcome methodology!
6. Celebrate the small successes and really celebrate the big successes - it’s the best way of converting a team’s limited determination to a competition-beating, unbreakable determination.
7. Lead by example and become the leader you know people will both respect and follow. No organization can ever succeed without true and consistent leadership. Become that person.
8. Develop a clear accountability model that is well understood by all parties - and then use it consistently. Used appropriately, accountability is not a negative. Instead view it as an enabler of superior performance.
9. Don’t take things too seriously - by ratcheting down the day-to-day intensity from red-alert to amber, you can drive with intensity and with smarts! Remember an annual plan takes a full 12 months, so learn to pace yourself and your team for the whole year.
A New Year’s annual business plan can be successful, and many companies meet or exceed their plans. Consider becoming a student of understanding why. And then become a student of knowing why. And then become a student of making it happen. Pace yourself with a sprinkling of patience, be alert to subtle changes and signs, and develop an outcomes-focused, clinical approach, and you will surely celebrate with style at the end of this exciting year!
Now, if you can do all of this for a complicated business, surely you can also keep up your New Year’s exercise resolutions as well:)