By Patrick Ross, Relationships Manager at ActiveOps
BUSINESSES know that agility is the key to manoeuvring through the whirlwind of ever-changing demands in industry today. Seismic shifts in technology and our communities have influenced not only our work ethics but our positions on working from home, work-life balance, and global economies. So, it is no wonder that the secret to industry survival is to create step-by-step plans ensuring your teams are on track to meet their goals.
Managers at all levels should be meticulous in setting targets, assessing progress, and mapping their future course of action. This naturally includes how well planning delivers agility in the real world. A good plan will always contain specific goals and fundamental touchstones: where you are now, where you want to be, and how you will get there. Inevitably there will always be a need to deal with unexpected glitches, and these days, you can count on those goals you set to shift, often, at a moment’s notice.
So how do you manage to keep your business plan alive in the face of constantly shifting priorities, needs, and circumstances? It comes down to four key points:
- Having the facts to backup goals – ensuring that key data points in the right direction of an obtainable goal.
- Prioritising end goals – identifying the difference between short term and long-term objectives.
- Involving all stakeholders at every stage of the planning process – ensuring that everyone on board is in tune with the desired results.
- Capitalising on past successes – what worked in the past and can it be repeated in the future?
1: Build your plan with essential facts, not guesswork
Establishing a level of output from a team along with an outline of typical figures and achievable timelines, needs to be at the heart of any business goal.
For example, a good plan will include how many widgets an employee should produce per hour, the average handle time for a customer call, or the delivery time for a standard order. With a complete understanding of the data, managers can justify the goals they set and understand the challenges to achieving them.
A good repository of data and a suite of analytics tools will help tremendously in goal creation and all stages of the process, from implementing changes and troubleshooting glitches to assessing what has been achieved in the past and what is likely to be achievable in the future.
It is a considerable effort to amass all that amount of information, particularly up front, but it’s undoubtedly worth the time. Firstly, it provides valuable insight into the challenges your colleagues face. Yet, at the same time, your data may uncover things you hadn’t even considered which might influence the path you want to take to achieve your goal. Yet your actions should be fluid meaning that while the plan is in action, any bit of crucial data will help inform any decisions you need to make when the unexpected occurs.
2: Prioritise the need first
Managers often short-change themselves and their teams when they create plans. They start from the perspective of what they think their team is capable of when instead they should start with what the business needs.
Lots can be possible if you focus on the goal and are realistic about the required effort, as well as be open to ways to make the goal worth achieving. After working out what would be required to attain your goal, you can consider workable solutions. Check to see if you can get help from other business areas. Find out if any work can be moved out to another date. Are there obstacles that could be addressed, such as technology or training? Even if you do not get the help you need, you will at least have a handle on what your challenges are – and for that matter, so will others.
3: Share your plan with others
One of the significant reasons plans fail is because someone or something comes out of nowhere with a perceived higher priority. In many cases, there is nothing you can do about it. Business needs can change in an instant, and you must make sure all departments have in place contingency plans in place to weather the storm.
You can mitigate harsh weather and even avoid it by making yourself heard. Your plans should not be kept secret. Share them with everyone, particularly those who have the power to impact them. Having conversations early and incorporating everyone’s needs will help guarantee more remarkable success.
And it’s essential not to forget about your team members. They need to be included from the start. This means getting their agreement on your proposed solution and understanding their role in making it successful. Employees will be more invested in executing a plan they helped build rather than one they were told to go with – particularly if they don’t agree with it.
Lastly, don’t forget to share your incremental results, too. Let everyone know about the progress, including successes and failures. By welcoming ongoing feedback, your plan will become front of mind for others, increasing the chances of it being successful.
4: Don’t forget to cash the cheque!
If you have done the work of detailing your plan, plotting out your activities and resources, and ensuring that all relevant parties are on board, you are going to start to see results. You need to reap the rewards of that effort.
If your efforts to speed up the process on an assembly line have worked, what are you doing as a result? Whatever it is, document it and brag mercilessly because a well-executed plan does not just deliver operational benefits – it also demonstrates your and your team’s competence.
In most cases, your plan will not deliver one significant result in the end. Instead, it is going to produce small wins throughout. Use these to your advantage. Share reports, speak up at meetings, even host a celebration. These anecdotes will help keep the enthusiasm alive among your partners as the plan continues to roll out.