Is Your Plan Working?
Am I impatient, or do I need a new plan? This is a frequently asked question in my line of work. Entrepreneurs and business leaders set goals, and a plan to achieve them, and they want to know if the plan is working, and they need to be patient, or if they need to adjust plans. Sometimes it takes time, especially if you are doing something new and unfamiliar. Just like planting a seed in the ground, the sprout doesn’t grow right away, but if you don’t water it and feed it, the plant won’t grow. Here are some things to look for when you’re trying to make a distinction.
Does Your Plan Support Your Goal?
A plan is typically the actions you take to meet a goal. Many times, people and organizations get so fixated on working the plan they forget what the actual goal is. I have heard people say “if you work the plan, you will get the result.” That is entirely true, but is your plan yielding the result YOU want?
For example, I spoke to a salesperson at a networking event recently. He was telling me about his experience with a previous company, where he was tasked with collecting 50 business cards every day. The reasoning behind this is the belief it’s a numbers game. For every 50 business cards gathered, you might get 2-3 sales. You would have to take action to follow-up on those business cards to convert them into sales, wouldn’t you? So, for the salesperson, the goal was to collect business cards. He didn’t care who or where he obtained them, as long as he checked the box. Let me ask you, was he meeting the ultimate goal? Was the goal to make sales, or to collect business cards?
Processes and Procedures
For your plan to be effective, it needs to define a process. Successful businesses have repeatable processes and procedures for doing their work. It makes the outcome predictable, which is desirable in business. For example, if an automobile manufacturer wants to mass produce an automobile they have a process do it. Material goes in one end and a vehicle comes out the other. It’s easy to repeat, and each car is consistently the same as the last. If there is a problem in the system, it becomes apparent, and energy can be directed to fixing the problem to resolve it more effectively.
Ironically most people don’t follow processes and they get inconsistent results. If you don’t have a method for executing your plan how will you know what parts are productive and which aren’t working? Back to the salesperson I talked about before. After he collects the business cards, presumably the next step is to call to set appointments. At the meeting, he will make a sales presentation, then finally close a sale. When the salesperson has a consistent process (says the same thing in the same way) and he isn’t able to schedule appointments, he needs to work on how he asks for a sale. Likewise, if he gives the presentation but isn’t closing the deal, he needs to work the presentation. When you have a process, you can see the flaws more efficiently, and make corrections when needed.
It’s common knowledge in business – what gets measured, gets done. When you have a plan, you need a way to measure progress. Finally, if our salesperson isn’t measuring how many people he meets, or how many appointments he makes, and ultimately how many sales he makes, how can you tell if the plan is working? Metrics help identify what is working and what isn’t working. They identify areas of inefficiency, areas which are improving, and areas which are in decline. Setting up a plan and defining the parameters necessary to measure the plan effectively is an absolute must.
Remember, a plan is only going to be useful if it is implemented. Creating a plan and putting it on a shelf isn’t going to bring any results, no matter how good the actual blueprint is. Many small businesses create business plans, and never look at them again. You went through the effort to develop the plan, you might as well follow it!
This Week’s Challenge
Review your 2018 goals. Are you on track? Are you measuring your processes? Are your plans helping you yield the results you desire? If not, it might be time to revisit the plans and procedures you have in place!
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Quote of the Week
“Processes underpin business capabilities, and capabilities underpin strategy execution.”
– Pearl Zhu, Digital Capability