Why It’s Important to Stay on Plan

Find it hard for me to trust the numbers and use them in calculations going forward. Things seem to change dramatically from when we lay out a plan to the end of the year. We line up for good things to happen, then things dip as the year unfolds.

Thoughts of the Day: Working backwards from a plan is one way to get where you want to go. Make sure your plan makes sense. Have a variety of solutions to implement to get things back on track. Monitor progress in small increments.

Mapping out the future is smart. Draw a picture of what you want your business to look like. What about customers, employees, work environment? How about margins, volume, numbers and types of suppliers. Factor in new product launches, impact of declining products or services, amount of inventory required. Think about how education plays into staying ahead of the curve.

Convert your notes into financial indicators. Think about year over year growth rate – stay away from big leaps, stick with slow and steady progress. Decide on how much profit you want the company to make in order to make all your hard work worthwhile. Fill in the middle – overhead costs, cost of goods sold, gross profit.

Take a hard look at history. What parts of your plan have been consistently easy to bring in on plan? What parts of the plan do you typically struggle with? And why?

How many people don’t understand the plan or aren’t prepared to handle the load they’re tasked with? In retrospect how much of the plan has been tied to unrealistic expectations, or black swans – things that popped up that you couldn’t anticipate? When did you get caught short on resources to throw at solving a problem? What about having enough alternative solutions as options?

Any plan should include year over year growth, which means handling more next year than last. Who struggled with meeting goals last year? What do they need to learn and practice doing, in order to get over the last hump and the next one?

What resources were or are missing – make a list of things to fix, assign tasks and allocate funds. How much in reserve funds will be needed to close any gaps? Look at cash on hand and define how much more you need. Money doesn’t solve problems, but it makes it easier to accelerate solutions.

What about reporting structure? Who has reported accurately on what was going on? Who had difficulty recognizing or reporting on the facts as compared to the plan, and what training, oversight or support do they need?

Make sure you can identify and head off problems before they get big. Lots of frequent mini reports are usually useful. Plan out how to roll those reports up into that one big overview you’ll need to know if everything is on track.

Check on the tone coming from the people in your organization. Are they on board and enthusiastic, bought in to what you’re trying to do? Does everyone understand what they are accountable for? A culture of commitment is essential.

Make sure that people are allowed to state their concerns and limitations openly, so that they can be addressed. Draw a line when people go overboard and turn concerns into obstruction. Make sure that everyone is in the right job and willing to get behind the plan. Allow time to vent, but then expect everyone to move forward with commitment.

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