Planning for a Bigger, Better Future Starts Now
With three quarters of 2020 now behind us, businesses begin to think in earnest about year-end projections for the current year and prospects for 2021. What can entrepreneurial leaders do now to ensure their organization is best positioned for success no matter what lies ahead?
While no one can predict with accuracy how the balance of this year will play out, setting the stage for a strong 2021 is a corporate necessity. Fourth quarter planning for the following year is one of the many “success habits” we identified in our study of the most enduringly successful businesses. Dedication to this practice remains steadfastly in place irrespective of the operating environment and despite the many uncertainties which lie ahead. Where to start?
The “Five A’s Method” is a proven technique that has helped countless organizations focus on their best opportunities and direct internal resources in that direction. By identifying their core strengths, key growth strategies are established and are then supported by tactical planning and budgeting.
“The Five A’s” work as follows”
- Awareness/assessment: Where do we stand now as an organization both internally (our operating culture, the strengths of our leadership/management team) and externally? Are we structured properly or are there deficiencies in how we deploy our people? How do our customers feel about us as a key supplier? Do we rely on anecdotal feedback, or do we utilize a structured systematic method of compiling and monitoring the state of key account relationships?
- Alignment: Once key objectives and opportunities are identified; do we focus our energies and efforts on these “relevant few” or do we slip into “peanut butter” mode (spreading our resources evenly over every opportunity)? Our organizational structure is reviewed to ensure that all phases of the business are complementary and work toward a common, well-articulated, well-communicated aim.
- Action: Now, it’s time to implement. With the first two steps complete, the action plan can be put in gear with greater focus and a priority on results absent the suffocating busyness that draws energy out of the organization.
- Accountability: Because all phases of the plan are timed, monitoring progress is assured as part of a comprehensive, day-long quarterly review. Since each objective is assigned a “champion” (one member of the Steering Committee who is assigned the responsibility of moving the objective forward) reporting is clear and concise. Quarterly reviews allow the plan to adapt and adjust as the year unfolds enabling fast, flexible response to changing market conditions and opportunities.
- Achievement: What every organization strives for. Accomplishing what it is we set out to do gives us reason for celebration and recognition for sure. It also feeds future success as the enterprise begins to understand what it takes to achieve its aims and how a structured, disciplined approach to planning can provide the impetus for building positive momentum.
In my experience, while most businesses understand each of these steps, they are rarely taken in the order I’ve described here. Fact is, most begin with step 3 (action) without taking into account steps 1 (awareness/assessment) or 2 (alignment), they are frustrated that they don’t reach step 5 (achievement) and they lay the blame on the absence of step 4 (accountability).
In sports, the fourth quarter usually brings with it an increased sense of urgency and focus. Why not begin now? Give your organization its best chance for success by organizing a comprehensive, systematic approach to strategic planning.
Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., CAE, is the Founder and Principal of Alexander Joseph Associates, a privately held consultancy specializing in executive business advisory services with clients throughout the graphic communications industry.
Joe spent 30 years with NAPL, including 11 years as President and CEO. He is an adjunct professor at NYU teaching graduate courses in Executive Leadership; Financial Management and Analysis; Finance for Marketing Decisions; and Leadership: The C Suite Perspective. He may be reached at Joe@ajstrategy.com. Phone or text: (201) 394-8160.