Especially when you’re growing an existing business, you want the planning process to pull your team together, develop commitment, and accountability. Managers have to believe in a plan to implement a plan. They also have to believe that results will be tracked, and that managers will be held accountable for disappointing results and will be given credit for positive results. The planning process depends on everybody believing that results will make a difference.

As an owner or operator of an existing business, recognize this team factor as a vital part of your planning process. Work on bringing the team into the planning at several levels. I can recommend some specific steps that will help make this work.

  1. At least once a year go through a strategy review process that begins with a SWOT meeting and SWOT review.  SWOT is an excellent framework that everyone understands and is profoundly strategic. Get your key people together and develop bullet points. Keep notes. Keep the discussion open.
  2. Digest the results of the SWOT. Consider the responsibility you have as owner or manager of a business.  Strategy is not done by committee or by popular vote. Work on a digestion system that combines ownership responsibility with participation and teamwork. Optimize the SWOT.
  3. Share the digested, optimized SWOT with your team of key managers. Develop the strategy. Keep in mind that strategy is focus, and the principles of long-term consistency, displacement, and priorities.
  4. Give the team time to develop detailed strategy, tactics, and programs. Use can use the strategy pyramid framework, for example.  Keep everbody involved focused on strategic priorities and look for concrete, measurable, detailed specifics. Make sure that everything important is measurable, and that the measure is embedded into the plan.  If you can’t track it, then you won’t be able to manage it later.
  5. Merge the team’s contributions into a plan. Remember again that strategy isn’t done by committee or popular vote. Somebody has to have the last word, and that somebody ought to be somebody who owns the business.
  6. Schedule regular implementation and plan review meetings — give them dates and importance from the beginning — at the same time that you approve the plan.  Make this schedule very specific, real dates and times, so that every manager knows ahead of time. Do something like the third Thursday of every month. Review plan vs. actual results. Talk about why actual results are different from what was planned — and they always will be — and what should be done about it.
  7. Make sure that those review meetings happen.  They have to be important.  If you’re the owner, operator, or manager, be there. Make sure you attend and manage those meetings. If the review meetings fall apart, so will the plan.

— Tim Berry —

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.