Wow, 2017 has arrived! If you are a CEO or business owner or a member of any management team, how would you assess the performance of your organization over the past year?
Regardless of the size of the organization you lead, this column is for you. If you are in health care, manufacturing, insurance, financial services, higher education, nonprofits, any franchise or any other business, I would encourage you to read on for some insights that can help you be more successful in 2017!
Lets start with some questions.
Are you satisfied with the sales and profit performance of your company? Are you satisfied with the performance of your management team? How have you prepared your firm, department or division to succeed in 2017? And how do you know? What are the top three to five key objectives critical for the success of your organization?
These are some of the tough but critical questions that leaders at all levels need to address, especially those at the top. It is disappointing to learn of business owners who have no written plans for the year, because they are most likely not reaching their full potential.
Sustained high performance and growth of any organization will be difficult without a good plan that is well-executed.
I know, from my own experience as a senior leader, that whether I was very clear on what needs to happen or very confused, I always took a bunch of people with me. Good business plans provide clarity and purpose. They unify the entire organization to move toward the same destination. When the leadership fails to plan, or puts a half-hearted effort toward it, the respect of their team begins to erode.
In the military, leaders who fail to provide good plans with clear objectives and strategies set up their troops to fail. That’s no different from leaders in the commercial world. While the consequences of poor planning can be much more severe for military operations, they can be disastrous for businesses, too.
A good plan needs to highlight what you are building; why the organization exists; the top three to five measurable objectives for the year; and how you plan on accomplishing those objectives.
As a CEO, what would you give to have a plan that provides great answers to those questions above?
The senior leader in any organization owns this task. Leaders inspire the creation and implementation of the plan. They ensure that it is concise, understandable, executable and communicated throughout the organization. Used on a regular basis, the plan becomes a key part of the disciplined process to set goals and measure performance.
I have been involved in planning for more than 20 years – both in the military and in my consulting business. In the military, I learned from other great leaders the effectiveness of what we called “500 Day Plans.” Eighteen months, or 500 days, was as far enough to effectively plan because of the ever-changing military environment.
My final plan in the Army was as the commanding general of the Army’s Signal Center and School at Fort Gordon. We addressed all the key questions from above. Our plan identified eight priorities and 111 specified tasks with a senior leader accountable – by name – for every task.
I held an initial “all-hands” meeting to lay out the plan in our auditorium – mandatory for every employee of the organization. I personally held quarterly updates while others conducted more frequent reviews at lower levels. We used the plan to communicate with other key leaders throughout the Army (stakeholders) as well as to guide important decisions and daily work.
This plan played a monumental role in our collective success at the fort, reinforcing how valuable a good plan, well-executed, can be.
When plans are put in writing, people take them seriously – they become “real.” Employee respect for and confidence in the leadership grows. The plan helps clarify their own performance expectations. When implemented, employees become galvanized in their collective focus on what is most important for the organization. Engagement increases as they feel more part of the team knowing how their individual performance contributes to the overall mission.
Think about what you can achieve for your business with a focused, well-crafted and effective plan for the future! CEO/owners – do not let this task go undone for 2017! I just completed my own business plan for my consulting business. Make this year one of your best and then celebrate your success!
Becoming a better leader is a journey. I wish you the best!
(The writer is an executive coach, consultant and author. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is loralmountain.com.)