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Making Your Plan Live

Over the course of this year I have been writing about the steps involved in creating a business plan.  We started with the power of crafting a vision for the company.  That then led to preparing a succinct and powerful list of the company’s core values.  Using these as a basis we then discussed the benefits of doing a SWOT analysis.

With all this work done how do you bring the company’s business plan to life?  How do we get beyond the thinking and start the doing?

Start by taking the results of the SWOT analysis and create a short list of goals for the company.  Keep in mind that too many goals actually will hold back your company, as the focus will be too scattered.  When conceiving a goal make sure it is specific and measurable.  If this is not done it is difficult to strive to achieve the goal and it is impossible to know if you have achieved the goal!

It is important to have all in the company own these goals. Consequently, this is work that might be done by a small leadership group and then brought to the entire company for review and discussion.  The book “Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, by Patrick Lencioni, lays out a very effective process for creating ownership and buy-in in a company.  An important insight is to the leader’s role includes making sure that all participants have their say before the decision is reached.  Absent that there is less likely to be united support for the idea/goal.

With a list of measurable and achievable goals in hand the next step is create a list of action items for each goal. These are the steps that are needed to bring to realize goal.  Without these items being done the goal will not be achieved.

Again, be straightforward and complete without being overly complicated.  A short list of actions steps which, if done, do help achieve a goal, is better than the perfect list, onerously long, daunting and undoable.

When thinking of action steps for a goal it is often useful to start from the perspective that the goal has been achieved.  Looking back, what had to have happened to be able to achieve the goal?  Those are the action steps, the stepping stones, needed to be taken to make the goal be realized.

The clearer you get with the action steps the more likely you will be to achieve the goals.  It is very similar to doing an estimate for a remodeling project.  The more complete and thought-through the estimate the more successful the remodeling project.

For each action step you need to determine what it would look like if the step were successfully achieved.  In other words, make the results measurable.  Absent the ability to measure the results how will you know that the result has been accomplished?

Again, what if you told a painter to paint a room but if the discussion regarding level of prep desired, coats needed for coverage, and similar specific need-to-know-to-be-successful items never took place how will all concerned parties feel when the painting is “done”?  Get specific about the measurable results.

There will be a logical sequence that the steps fall into.  One step needs to happen before the next can be taken. Getting this clear makes it more likely that all the steps WILL be taken.

Each step needs to have a person who is responsible for making it happen.  Lay this out in your action plan.  By getting specific about who will be paying attention to each step the company now has a champion who will own the respective outcomes.

If the overall goal is to be achieved by a date certain then what are the dates that the action steps that support the goal are to be done?  Getting clear about these dates when the action plan is being created allows less wiggle room and helps all involved manage the realization of the goals.

In the absence of a deadline driven schedule how long will a remodel take?  Likely pretty much longer than anyone likes and probably with a lot of circumstance-driven compromise.  Deadlines are lifelines, as they help us get done what we know we should be doing.

Do keep in mind that an action plan is not set in stone.  You and your people have the ability to modify and update the plan as needed.  The better the job done of crafting the action plan to begin with, the less likely it is that it will need to be completely redone.

You and your people have just a fantastic job of working “on” the business, which is SO hard to do because we are more inclined to work “in” the business.  Michael Gerber has written so compelling about this principle in “The E-Myth Contractor”.

What next?  With the business planning process complete your company is now ready to take a series of linked small steps which, when done, creates goals accomplished.   Now you all can go get ‘em done!

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