Whether you are Hannibal from the A Team, Danny from Ocean’s 11 or Kevin McCallister defending your parents’ house in Home Alone, everyone has a plan.
What is key in each of the above examples is that the plans were all successful. They achieved their desired outcome (at least 98 times from the group to be found in the Los Angeles underground!)
So what are the factors that made their planning successful?
Talk + Action
Fundamentally, each plan had a clear and defined vision with actionable steps to follow. Each part as important as the other, which is a perfect way for me to shoehorn in a great Japanese Proverb, that explains things in a simple but memorable way:
“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.”
In my day job, I don’t come across many crack commando units, casino thieves or child security officers but I do see many business owners who struggle with balancing the execution of their plan with the destination they are aiming for.
The Road to Success
I found some detailed research, carried out by Harvard University, that determined 4 things leadership teams were doing when executing strategy sucessfully:
- Dedicating more of their precious management time to dealing with strategy and converting to actionable steps,
- Setting a really clear strategy,
- Spending more time engaging their organisation, by surfacing what barriers or unmet needs exist and communicating direction and behavioural guardrails to their employees,
- Interacting with key stakeholders, such as suppliers and customers, to ascertain and anticipate roadblocks and opportunities.
All of the above are obvious and straightforward, so why aren’t more businesses successful when planning?
Most owner managed businesses don’t have with the resources or manpower that allows the owner to dedicate sufficient time away from the ‘running’ mode, to avoid a dip in financial performance.
They would see it as having a shortage of time, I would see it as prioritising other things. But what can be more important that planning your long term future even if you need to ‘defer’ the short term rewards.
Pitfalls to avoid
So, assuming the execution of a business plan becomes more important to a business owner, here are six pitfalls to avoid:
- Make sure it’s an actual strategy i.e. clear choices defining what to do and what not to do. Some strategies are just goals without detail on how to achieve an outcome.
- Explaining “the what” of the plan but failing to communicate the reasons “why”. Also don’t assume that communicating the plan means people understand it!
- Making any plan or execution overly complex, involving too many things and becoming difficult to explain.
- Not involving others. It is important to set the strategic intent from the top BUT don’t neglect the “bottom up” internal experimentation required for staff to create and work on initiatives. More people will work on things they believe in!
- Don’t be rigid with the plan as no planning Gantt chart survives the first dose of reality. Ensure the plan has a framework to allow it to be agile and adaptable
- Carrying on doing the same things – you need to break habits e.g. taking on new customers that fit your new strategy, to show you are learning.
I’ll leave you with a final thought: Challenge reasons for doing all tasks.
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