BABM July/August 2009

Planning for Change

An Outline for Success
By John Lankford

The sober reality is that most companies lack the mindset, the assets, and/or the appetite to devote to strategic planning. Since winning the #1 award as the Associate Business Coach of the Year, I am often asked, “What do successful businesses have in common?” The answer starts with a commitment to evaluation.

Changing your results is predicated on strategic planning, operational planning, and performance management planning. Strategic planning is the roadmap to the future. It means revisiting your vision, mission, and values – in other words, your “rules of the game.” Strategic planning is about where you’re headed and what you will accomplish when you arrive.

The purpose of planning is not to produce results, but to align your executive team and set the long-term course. This dialogue is critical to help these senior leaders adapt, focus, and commit.

A) Strategic Planning

1. Analyze results from the past three years 

  • Revisit your Vision/Mission Statement.
  • What market changes have occurred in the last 2-3 years?
  • Unique Selling Proposition – what differentiates you in the marketplace?
  • Assess your internal systems.
  • Complete a detailed “SWOT” assessment.

2. Consider alternatives to current problems 

  • Awareness: What part of management thinking has contributed to current problems?
  • Analysis: What new thinking must exist to define a new direction?
  • Discuss: What are alternative scenarios for key variables?

3. Mapping the new direction

  • What does the market analysis project for the next 3-5 years?
  • Does your current business model require revision?
  • How does your company’s USP relate to the marketplace of the future?

4. Benchmarking – a new type of leadership

  • Identify the top two or three companies (not in your industry) that are “best in class” and visit them to learn from their success.
  • The quality of your benchmarking trip will be in direct proportion to the amount of time spent planning the visit.
  • Do you have the right members on your management team?

B) Operational Planning

The operational plan is “how” you are going to implement the strategic plan. Under normal circumstances, the operational plan should be completed during the fourth quarter. Determining a matching budget and key performance indicators are also obligatory segments of a well-designed plan.

Designing the Operational Plan

1. Identify the forces working for and against your new thinking.

2. Test your thinking against the workings of effective strategies:

  • Know your competition.
  • Have contingencies.
  • Match competitive situations.
  • Be consistent.
  • Be realistic.
  • Leverage resources.

3. Build motivation. 

4. Concentrate full resources. 

5. Maintain total communication. 

6. Conserve scarce resources. 

7. Match company values. 

8. Utilize all information and intelligence.

9. Combine all strategic components.

10. Identify who is responsible for which elements of the plan.

11. Analyze operations, key performance indicators, budgets, and department/divisional action plans.

12. Develop an implementation timeline.

13. Design and execute a company-wide communication plan.

C) Performance Management Planning

Once you’ve purposefully mapped out the next 3-5 years and have designed an operational plan that articulates HOW you are going to implement the strategic plan, teams and individuals must be made to understand their roles. Most organizations try to use their performance management system. Unfortunately, in almost every organization of which I’ve been a part, this is where the plan falls short. Leaders at all levels fundamentally dislike their organizational performance management system for three reasons:

1. The system is too complicated.

2. Leaders do not hold leaders accountable for using the system effectively.

3. Most leaders are not very effective at providing consistent and valuable feedback. 

But all the planning in the world will go down the drain if no one can state the top three priorities they must accomplish every day and what the company’s top three priorities are for the year.

And finally, a reality check. The likelihood a company will achieve its strategic plan is in its review of the operational budget to determine whether the required funds for success are allocated.

Basic keys to success

  • A business coach, to help design and facilitate offsite planning retreats 
  • A commitment, by the CEO, to the planning process 
  • The undisputed participation of management 
  • A well designed and implemented communication plan for the entire organization

  • A performance management system that holds leaders accountable 
  • An effective one page organizational scorecard 

About the Author

John Lankford was recognized as the 2007and 2008 Associate Business Coach of the Year in North America for ActionCOACH, Entrepreneur Magazine’s 2009 #1 Business Coaching franchise in the world for the seventh straight year. John was also recognized as the 2007 and 2008 Global Associate Coach of the Year. His business expertise as a partner of ActionCOACH Pinellas has been tapped by the New York Times and CBS. He is the author of Superstar for Life…Career Transitions. John’s keynote speaking has landed him on the elite team that trains and certifies the new Executive Coaches joining the worldwide ActionCOACH community. John was just named the Chief Executive Officer for the Innisbrook Leadership Institute.