Next week my staff and I will hole up for an entire day of planning. We do this quarterly, but once a year, we “really” do this. This is our chance to step away from all of those seemingly meaningless little things and think bigger. It’s our day to say what if and why not. It’s the time to set the course for next year and perhaps realign with the vision for the next three to five years.
It’s a day to ask tough questions, explore new opportunities and embrace changes we need to make in order to realize our growth strategy. For me it’s one of the most exciting and exhausting days of the year, but it’s a practice that I would not do without and one that I suggest every business, no matter the size, commit to doing.
Below are five outcomes and benefits from holding our annual growth strategy planning day.
By thinking bigger and then thinking realistically about what it might take to overcome the things in our way, we naturally start eliminating things we should not focus on in an effort to make room for only the highest priorities. Our goal is to identify no more than three priority objectives for the year that make us aim higher and stop doing low priority things.
One of the ways we get to our short list of priorities is by identifying the results of achieving an objective. By creating a list of “what we gain” if we win and by contrast “what is costs” if we lose, we create the motivation to overcome constraints and stay focused on results as a team. In most cases our stated ideal results become the goals by which we measure our priority objectives.
Commit to Change
Here’s the thing I know for sure. Strategy without change is worthless. If your stated objectives for the year don’t have you asking – “what needs to change in order for us to actually do this?” – then you are thinking way too small. All growth involves change and you have to commit to how that’s going to happen or your objectives will dissolve into frustrating reminders of failure.
Every objective will naturally spin off a list of projects: The things that need to be done, the new products, the new positions, or the new processes. It’s essential that part of your planning day include identifying these projects and assigning an owner to each. That doesn’t mean this person is going to do all the work, they are simply going to be the one that cares the most about the project and carries the responsibility of moving it forward.
Focus on High Payoff
The final step and benefit involved is to identify the highest payoff work for everyone in the organization. This is how you properly assign tasks and stay focused on what matters most. The three or four high payoff tasks will differ for everyone in the organization, but they become a “go to” as you plan your week. For me, the execution of these stated high payoff tasks becomes the basis of two entire days of focused activity each and every week.
The One Page Plan
Finally, we take our goals and projects and align them on one page each in support of the proper topline objective. We assign each project an owner and charge that person with assembling the team, resources and plan for tackling the project related tasks.
When it comes to keeping our entire business focused on what matters most this is the most important day our organization has in search of day-to-day alignment and focus.