In previous posts we’ve been a bit heady. Values. Vision. Purpose. Operating Principles. Pretty lofty altitudes. Now these are all necessary just as a solid foundation is necessary if you are going to build a home that lasts versus something temporary. Now, with the foundation laid it’s time to begin executing on what you actually want to do.
We call this Flight Planning. It’s part strategic plan and part market plan and part organizational plan and mostly action plan. Over the last 20 years we’ve seen a large number of startups and small businesses achieve amazing results by devising and then doing this simple 3-step process.
STEP 1: TARGETS AND OBJECTIVES
The first step of the Flight Plan is to determine where you actually want to be in the next year (Objectives) and the next three years (Targets).
- Critical Success Area: Determine the Critical Success Areas in which you need to plan. Usually there are 5 or fewer: revenue, gross profit, customers, profit, market share, locations.
- Base Year: Establish where you were at the end of last year with each Critical Success Area.
- 3 Year Targets: Set “approximate targets” for where you’d like to be in each category you deem important in three years. These need not be exact but they do need to be clear and measurable. They are, as on old friend of mine would say, “directionally correct and in the proper order of magnitude.” In other words, they are close enough to guide you.
- 12 Month Objectives: Set more exact objectives in the same categories but with a 12 month time horizon. While not entirely exact and more aspirational than analytical try to be more “stretch realistic” at this step.
STEP 2: PIVOTAL STRATEGIES
Now that you know your destination it’s time to be thinking about the big things you can do to really advance the ball and move your company toward your goals. There should be few of these because, frankly, you probably have few resources to do them. Don’t take on too much or you will accomplish too little. Pivotal or breakthrough strategies represent the major moves or winning moves you want to make.
Examples of Pivotal Strategies may look like this:
- We will expand into a new country.
- We will establish a dedicated sales team to present our products to the market.
- We will merge with another company that accretes to our technology platform or opens new geographic or vertical markets.
- We will bring in a professional CEO.
STEP 3: QUARTERLY ACTION ITEMS
This is where the rubber meets the road. What will we actually do for the next 90 days? Spend time brainstorming (no judgement or evaluation) ideas of what we may do. The more ideas the better. List them on a flip chart and hang them all over the room or on a collaborative document if you have a remote team.
Now, determine what you will do. This is best done as a team but you, as the leader, will want to hold the final editorial role.
Finally assign an owner and a due date to each item. This last step is what begins the process of accountability and it is accountability and execution that will ultimately set you and your company apart from the “would be’s.”
Too simple? Not up to Harvard Business School standards? Good. I have no interest in an academically sound but functionally useless plan. As one old military sage put it,
“I’d rather have a simple, average plan with great execution than a brilliant plan that is poorly done.”