Do you dread your organization’s annual business planning sessions? You’re not alone. An activity meant to propel your business forward, develop strategy and tactics, and organize your team around a common mission often coalesce into a document that sits on a server, only to be referenced the following year to do it all over again.
This sense of disappointment was captured in a McKinsey Quarterly survey of nearly 800 executives: only 45-percent of the respondents said they were satisfied with the strategic-planning process. Further, only 23-percent indicated that major strategic decisions were made within its confines.
Many organizations simply go through the motions of annual business planning because they think they should. But, like most things in this world, you get out what you put in.
Read on for five simple strategies to elevate your business planning initiatives and get a higher return on your investment than ever before.
Five Simple Strategies to Elevate Your Business Plan
- Create a safe space: Developing a plan is one thing. Developing the right plan for your organization is another. To do so, honesty and transparency are key. To foster candid conversations, work to create a safe space. This could include engaging a third-party facilitator to foster non-bias conversations. Well ahead of the business planning workshop, brainstorm questions and topics that will promote healthy discussion. Where did we succeed and where did we falter last year? What are the biggest risks to our successful future? How are we going to grow our business? What new markets might we look to enter? Where are we going to recruit top-notch candidates? How can we elevate our marketing initiatives to better position us for new work? Also consider getting outside of the four walls of your office – there’s something about being in a new environment that fosters creativity and collaboration. And remember, if any member of your leadership team is remote, the entire meeting should be organized remotely. You want all perspectives, ideas, and opinions heard, regardless of location.
Encourage longer-term planning: In many markets, planning a year in advance will only get you so far. While the financial business plan should look at the year ahead, encourage your leadership team to think long-term about your tactical plan. Start with your future state, five-year goal, and work backwards to today. Where do you want the organization to be in the future? What steps do you need to take to get there, next year, and the years the follow? Bonus: We encourage teams to read and implement the tools in Traction by Gino Wickman, specifically its Vision Traction Organizer to, well, organize your long-term vision and share it broadly!
Establish KPIs and focus on accountability: Where most organizations fail to realize the full benefits of annual business planning is actually acting on the plan. It’s one thing to target $100M in sales next year, but HOW are you going to achieve that goal, and who is going to be responsible? The business plan should serve as the catalyst for action from your sales team to your HR recruiter, with clear goals, expectations, action assignments, metrics, and calendar targets.
Get creative! A well-developed business plan is more than just numbers. Gone are the days of a 100-page plan, full of Excel spreadsheets that, truthfully, only resonate with your executives and finance department. Using your financial plan as the backbone, consider making the rest of your business plan visual and easy to digest for any internal audience. Simple infographics, charts, statistics, and calls to action that are easy to digest will go a long way to getting your entire organization bought into the plan and moving in unison to achieving the goals within it.
Share the plan! Speaking of being easy to digest – business plans are not just an exercise meant for your leadership team. Everyone in your organization, from the CEO to your summer intern, needs to know the common mission the organization is working toward. The tactics are what need to be communicated with your entire organization so everyone understands their role and the goals the collective company is working toward. Consider sharing your plan on your internal Intranet site, report against it at your quarterly all-hands meetings, and use it to focus all activity and reporting for the year.
No matter the size of your organization, annual business planning is a chance to recalibrate and build a vision for the future. As you start planning for next year, consider implementing these five simple strategies to get the most out of your business planning investment. Looking for some support? From third party facilitation to strategy development, Summit Strategy helps businesses create and implement actionable, growth-oriented plans.
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