QZBJGG9HWXMN Everyone has a reason to hate operational planning. It takes too long. Worse, it takes all that time to do and is often forgotten. It gets confusing (“Isn’t this more of a strategy than an objective?” Argghhh!). And even when everyone manages to drag themselves through all that, reporting on and reviewing the execution of those plans gets so boring you wish you were the ones being executed.
These problems come to mind now because I am advising a small, but fast-growing company doing its first round of real planning. The benefits are high. It is worth trying to reduce the costs. So here it is, the Taia Ergueta Minimum Pain-Maximum Gain Operating Planning System.
- One Page Strategy Summary
- Operating Plan Initiatives List
- Operating Action Plans
- One Page Review Template
1. The One Page Strategy Summary
This assumes that you have done the strategy development already. If so, you have a ton of documents with options, analyses, dreams, obfuscations, spider diagrams, and assumption-laden spreadsheets to show for it. Now you just need all of that exquisitely distilled into one page. “Impossible!”, you say? We aren’t exactly talking Shakespeare here; it can be done. And it really has to be done. Give every employee a single, digestible page that shows what needs to change and by how much and you dramatically increase your chances of accomplishing and exceeding that.
Here is an example of a 1 page strategy summary:
To be clear, it is not just about fitting stuff on one page. The requirements for an effective one page strategy summary are:
1. Whole Entity Goals. There should not be more than 6 of these. These should indicate the actual numeric goal that the entity will achieve by the end of the planning period (a year, or half year if you are in the midst of massive change). In this case I have suggested:
- A growth goal
- A profit goal
- A customer satisfaction or loyalty goal, and
- Some version of an employee satisfaction or engagement goal
2. Strategic Intent Blocks
No more than 5 strategy areas. In the example above I have 4 strategy blocks:
- Markets and Products
- Finance and Admin
Each one has:
- A description of the key strategic intent. This is a pithy phrase that captures the key CHANGE that you will effect. If there is no change word (“increase” “eliminate”, “accelerate”, etc.), try again. (Remember, these are not meant to cover everything that the organization will do. They are the areas which require extra focus and will produce big impacts.)
- The main tactical initiative areas. Keep these broad enough and phrased as objectives; let your teams figure out how to accomplish them. They will be more engaged, develop more, and are likely to do great things you would not have thought of!
- The very few key metrics — and associated specific goals– that indicate the size of the change needed and that will tell if you accomplished the strategy. Nota Bene: Always define the goals as a minimum (i.e., “at least” or “less than”) rather than as a specific value. Reseach shows that people will just meet a specific goal, but will consistently outperform that when the goal is open-ended. Go figure. Now you know how to increase your organizations output by 15% simply by learning how to type “<” and “>”.
2. Operating Plan Initiatives List
Once the strategy is clear, your teams or functional groups can go off and develop action plans. Warning, warning!: This is where the strategy can get undermined if people pursue all the projects they like and fit the strategic initiatives in edgewise. Negotiating to a 1-2 page list of all the major initiatives and their owners helps the management team drive focus and make clear trade offs. You’ll end up with a succinct initiative list for each function or group that contains:
- Initiatives directly in support of the strategies: These are the highest priority.
- Initiatives for some ongoing obligations: Some of these are essential and some may need to be examined for potential dropping over time.
- Other initiatives: If there are a lot of additional initiatives, it is worth checking to see if they are justified and if they can be done without jeopardizing the strategic items.
A simple slide like this can capture the key elements across all the entities involved.
- Operating Action Plans
- Operational Plan Review Template
Inquiries and Comments Welcome.
If you would like help with your planning, contact me by clicking here.