Great planning results in measurable outcomes within a desirable timeframe.
Procrastination results in wasted time, multiplied anxiety and broken relations. Your choice.
Keeping in mind how easily planning can morph into procrastination, here are some questions I have learned to ask myself to ensure that I am really planning for future successes and not just avoiding difficult issues:
When will this plan be needed? – If the plans you are making today are not going to be implemented in the near future, why make them? While it is OK to have a five-year plan, it is much more important to have a firm grasp on what is going to happen in the next five days and weeks. Be careful not to sacrifice too much time and brain power dreaming and scheming at the expense of solid, near-term, profit-producing ideas.
How will this plan move us forward? – Often when it comes to planning, we are quick to answer the what questions, but slow to understand the full implications of short, medium- and long-term plan benefits. Just as for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction (Newton’s Law of Physics), for every plan there are a variety of opportunity costs that have to be carefully weighed again the benefits offered. Pay particular attention to how the costs associated with growing top-line sales is affecting the growth or decline of bottom-line profits. Remember, pay close attention to outcomes or you may plan yourself right out of business.
How often do we stop and re-evaluate the plan? – Just as a husband cannot simply tell his wife “I love you” on their wedding day and expect her to remain convinced of that fact until he tells her otherwise, so it is with revisiting our plans. Marriages and businesses are both living things and they do not exist in a vacuum. For any long-term plan to succeed requires that stakeholders pause on a routine basis to examine and discuss all of the changes that have occurred since the plan was created. Companies and couples that make this discipline a regular practice tend to be much more satisfied and successful.
When is it time to make a new plan or exit? - Plans are only as good as the information and environment they are based on. Over time, if either change significantly, the plan may simply not work anymore. Many companies fail because their leaders do not recognize and react quickly enough to dramatic changes in their industry or market segment. It is for this reason that companies should start out with exit strategies that include a number of “what if” scenarios designed to take these potential changes into account.
Planning is best accomplished in an atmosphere of limited distractions where you and your team can relax and focus on the future.
Take some time this week to find a weekend on your calendar to get away with your people and make a plan for taking the company to its next level. You may be amazed at what great plans you can come up with together!