I was in awe of the elaborate strategic plan, the leadership team and I just produced. After three dedicated days of planning and brainstorming, we had seven pages of strategic initiatives to serve our business well for the next 36 months. Six focal points, with five to seven initiatives for each focus point. It was very impressive. What made it so impressive was also why it didn’t work. Trying to pursue way too many initiatives created too many distractions and lacked the intense focus required to execute at a high level.
I have realized a few key points over the last decade of building a high-performing business. Annual assessments and reviews are mission-critical. In the absence of goals and a plan, a person and company will flounder.
- Every person and business needs a plan (what is the goal/destination?) Without a plan, you and the team are playing blindfolded.
- Less is more (intense focus — get the entire team engaged on the goal)
- Communication — Clear objectives and timelines MUST be established (What, by whom, by when?)
Every person and business should have a destination. The clearer defined the destination, the more likely the journey is successful. Most people don’t take the necessary time to reflect, unplug and “think” what they want to accomplish over the next 12 months. I schedule several days each December with myself, to unplug, reflect and think. It is amazing what happens when the distractions and noise get eliminated (smartphone off). I use a simple template to get my mind jumpstarted.
- Biggest accomplishments from the past year?
- Biggest disappointments from the past year?
- Biggest opportunities for myself, my department, my business?
- What has to happen to execute and capitalize on those opportunities?
I’m a big fan of playing the “what if” game. What if we increased our margin by 3% over the next 12 months? What if we reduced employee turnover by 20%? I would run all types of scenarios through my model. Then I would prioritize my opportunities. Limiting these opportunities (goals) to just a few is important.
Less is more
For a job to be successful, most companies will have seven to 10 different people or departments touching a job. If one person or department fails, the job will likely fail. Each party has codependency, counting on the other to deliver. Achieving goals is no different. The more focused the entire team is to a goal/objective, the more likely the goal will be achieved.
Great leaders can create extreme clarity and focus for the people and team they manage. Stacking the deck and achieving 1-3 goals and initiatives per year will certainly outperform 7-10 goals and initiatives that are missed and fall short. Less is more. Great leaders have the discipline to stay focused and not allow a good idea/initiative to become a distraction to a great one.
Clear objectives and timelines
Don’t over-complicate this area. Ask yourself what needs to happen to ensure a goal gets achieved? These action items become the mini strategies to achieve the goal.
- What? – quantify, it must be measurable and tangible
- By Whom? – engagement and ownership established
- By When? – clear timeline
These items become the scoreboard. It provides clarity and expectations for the entire team. It must be relevant, up to date, and posted in a public place for all to view. You need to create the necessary rhythm and cadence for the entire team. Without a scoreboard how do you know who is performing and who is not? Publicly, cheer on and high five the rockstars that are delivering and lighting up the scoreboard. Individually, coach and correct the underperformers. People want to win, show them how.
The team will follow and mirror the leader. If you stay disciplined and demonstrate your commitment to the plan, the team will engage, achieve and win.
At the end of the process, I would have a one-page annual plan that was delivered and communicated to the entire company. It works. Give it a try if you want to generate some traction in 2020.
Cheers, Eric Tryon