Competition is fierce, margins are thin, talent is tight, and the world is constantly changing. If that’s a fair description of your current environment a well-thought-out 2024 plan might be essential for getting ahead of the game.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of your business. With people and projects to manage and clients to satisfy, it can be challenging to find the time to step back and think about the bigger picture and your longer term goals.
So, here’s a question. How often do you really think about what you really want from running your company on a business and personal level? If the answer is not enough, then this may just be the blog for you.
The annual review
Annual business planning and objective setting allows you to take stock of where your business currently stands and where you want it to go in the future. By setting clear objectives and creating a roadmap for achieving them, you stand a much better chance of ensuring that you and your business are on the right track to meet your goals.
At Statius we would argue that there are three stages to the annual business planning and objective setting process which looks to answer the following questions:
- What’s going on in the outside world that you need to account for?
- What’s going on (or needs to) on in the inside (company) world that you need to account for? And not forgetting…
- What is it that you personally want to do?
Tools like PESTEL and Porter analysis are great battle hardened frameworks for at looking at the outside world and how external changes to it might impact you. Each of which can flag up opportunities and threats, both of which feed into the SWOT (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats) analysis. The strengths and weaknesses being a result of internal navel gazing; essentially, a critical review of past performance, and what is currently working well, and not so well.
We have, above, accounted for the “mechanics” of running a company, but what about you personally? You have taken the risks. You have put in the blood, sweat and tears. You have had the long nights and early mornings but what for? You have desires and ambitions and you may have set up the firm to realise them, so surely you should be doing the things that you love doing. But are you?
Your personal review
As the top dog, I think you need to take account of the things you enjoy. So, questions you need to ask are:
- What do I do?
- Where do I spend my time?
- What do I really enjoy?
As we have suggested before, the immense privilege of running your own show, is that, you can design the organisation and do the things that you love doing. As long as, of course, you also delegate the things you don’t love doing, to people that do love doing them!
In one instance, with one client we’ve worked with for nearly 25 years, we undertook a similar exercise with each of the three director’s. Each of them having “come off the tools” in different, aspects of the business, absolutely hated running the business, but they loved interacting with, what they called, “the blokes” and the muck and bullets of contract management (although these days, even in their contracting sector, it’s no longer “just” blokes). So, one of their objectives one year was to appoint a managing director to manage them, and the business, while they got on with the job that they loved.
By taking the time to assess your business’s and your personal strengths and weaknesses, ideally with your management team, you can together make informed decisions about where to focus your efforts in the coming year. If that’s a process of interest to you then check out our download Figuring Out What You Want
Now having examined your environment and your part in it, we think there are three parts to the planning and monitoring of activities needed to ensure you hit your objectives:
- The business plan
- The action plan
- Tracking execution
Interestingly perhaps, we’d also suggest the activities become more important as we move down the above list. Let’s briefly take each in turn.
The business plan
The business plan ideally set’s out the current situation as you see it from both the internal and external perspective, so the business plan is “just” the collation of the current “thinking”. The more important aspect is the output of that thinking; this is the action plan for addressing the issues raised.
The action plan
As the name suggests it’s the action plan which drives the things that actually need to be done.
The point is, we have often come across gloriously written business plans, well thought through and beautifully presented. Without the slightest hint of any action being undertaken by anybody. Ridiculous.
In last month’s blog we addressed specific frameworks for action planning and objective setting. SMART objectives being one such framework, but not the only one.
The key is by setting clear objectives and assigning responsibility for each, you provide your people with your roadmap for success. But the most important part by far is the next activity.
The late great Stephen Covey, him of The Seven Habits fame, once said:
- “Most leaders would agree that they would be better having an average strategy with superb execution rather than superb strategy with poor execution”
So, arguably, tracking execution is the most important part of the business planning and objective setting process. This is about knowing what needs to be done, by when, by who and critically, how it will be measured. For us, and many of our clients, we use a spreadsheet where the annual plan gets divided into four 90-day sprints.
- The (annual) business plan is reviewed.
- The priorities for the next 90 days are agreed.
- The goals necessary to meet those priorities are developed.
- Individual tasks necessary to achieve the goals are then plotted across the 90-day (13 week) period
The 90-day sprint is then reviewed weekly by the top team RAGing (Red, Amber, Greening) each of the priorities, goals and tasks. This weekly review allows you to identify issues at risk, to re-focus or take corrective action, where required.
It is the tracking of execution that is the critical to ensuring your business and the delivery of your objectives and targets remains agile and responsive to changing conditions.
If you work through the above process, can I assure you that everything will be perfect and play out exactly as you wish? Can I assure you your ambitions, objectives and targets will all be smoothly and seamlessly delivered? Of course not.
The thing you can be assured of in adopting these processes is that you will spot deviations from your plan and be able to take corrective action at an early stage and by doing so you will stand a much better chance off minimising the difference between what you expect to happen and what actually happens.
Lastly, and possibly most importantly, as you build your plan you can use it as a tool to Put in place processes and practises that allow you to do more of the things that you love.
So, as you look to the 2024 road ahead, take the time to engage in annual business planning and set clear objectives for your business. Your future self will thank you.
Related tools and ideas
if you’re looking for some great thinking on business planning tools and objective setting then I’d recommend
- Mastering the Rockefeller Habits – Verne Harnish
- Scaling Up – Verne Harnish
- The Road Less Stupid – Keith Cunningham