Here’s one element of the plan-as-you-go business plan that you won’t see automatically on most other business plan outlines or formats: the review schedule.
One of the lesser know, but more important, facts about planning is that every business plan needs a review schedule. People have to know when the plan will be reviewed, and by whom.
For example, in Palo Alto Software we established the third Thursday of every month as the “plan review meeting” day. In the old days we brought in lunch and took over the conference room. It wasn’t a big deal. We were done in 90 minutes. But we scheduled all the meetings as part of the next year’s plan, and key team members knew they should be there, and wanted to be there. Absences happened, but only when they were unavoidable.
I speak in the past tense only because after our UK subsidiary managing director was added to the group, those lunch meetings became morning meetings. Our 9 in the morning is London’s 5 in the afternoon. Then in 2007 when the new management team took over, the review meetings moved to Wednesdays. But we still have them.
Remember, there’s no reason to plan without plan review. I hope I’ve made that clear throughout this book. A few more tips:
- Try to always start your review meetings with an initial discussion of key assumptions. This is why I say elsewhere that it’s so important to list those assumptions where they stay on top of mind.
- Mind the discipline of keeping changes in strategy and changes in assumptions related to each other.
- Keep review meetings as short as possible. One of the biggest threats to efficient effective planning process is too much time in meetings discussing the same things.
- Emphasize metrics. Focus on concrete specific details. Metrics are most important. How do actual metrics compare to plan metrics. Variances, meaning the differences between plan and actual, should be discussed. The obvious metrics are the financial results, but don’t let those be the only metrics (refer to Develop Metrics).
- Be keenly aware of the “crystal ball and chain” phenomenon. The risk is that planning becomes a no-win game in which people commit to future metrics that come back to bite them. It’s as if it were a management trick to hold over people’s heads. Don’t let that happen. Make sure planning is collaborative, so that it is always understood that change can happen and when it’s managed, is good. Planning helps us manage change; it isn’t really just to keep track of how bad we are at predicting the future. Remember, your business plan is always wrong.