Use Better Business Planning as A Collaborative Tool
by Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
- Created: January 11, 2010, 7:53 pm
- Updated: March 2, 2012, 7:18 pm
Don’t dismiss business planning just because you don’t need to show a document to anybody. One of the best fringe benefits of a good business planning process is the teamwork and collaboration it can generate.
1. The magic of metrics
Never underestimate the power of metrics: it's about giving people concrete, measurable goals, so they can track their own progress. Money-based metrics like sales and expense budgets are obvious, but a good business planning process gives an organization a chance to develop and manage metrics for everybody. Not just money, but calls, average times, presentations, leads, trips, showings, demos, pitches, lines of code, complaints, incidents, and of course the ever-more-popular metrics like page views, unique visitors, downloads, email opens, and conversion rates.
Patrick Lencioni, author of 3 Signs of Miserable Job*, says
The third sign is something I call 'immeasurement,' which is the inability of employees to assess for themselves their contribution or success
His point is that people want and need to know their metrics. They want to work towards improvements.
And the best way to do that is through a good business planning process. Your plan isn't just blue-sky strategy, it's also specific concrete steps, and metrics. Not because you want something you can hold against team members, but, quite the contrary, so you have something you can work on together.
2. It's a regular process, not just a one-time plan
Planning is best as a process, not just a document. The first step is the first plan, of course. It sets down all the obvious components you read about all the time, like the strategy, management, basic numbers, market focus, business offerings, competition, and so forth. And then it lays out the steps the organization is taking to move along the path towards the goals, and those become concrete with dates, deadlines, task assignments, budgets, and forecasts.
The next steps are about following up. Planning becomes a powerful tool for collaboration when you add in the sense of process, meaning regular progress reviews, tracking metrics, watching for changed assumptions, and making course corrections.
This isn't 'gotcha' management; it's not about catching people up in a net of metrics. Instead of that, it's teamwork as management. The team watches progress together and coordinates the metrics and tracking as assumptions change.
Concrete example: if the plan included a trade show in September, in June or July the team reviews the plan, fine tunes the specifics, and watches out for changed assumptions that might require changing the stance on the September trade show. Everybody wins. It's not the reverse, where at the end of the year somebody checks whether or not there was a trade show event in September.
3. Special benefit: accountability
One obvious trend for the future is that accountability as measured by physical presence in a specific place is going out of fashion. We work at home, on the train, and in virtual workplaces, not just at the main office. So organizations will increasingly struggle for actual results based-on-metrics accountability emerges. And that is the growing link between planning, management, metrics, and accountability.
*Not a government website.
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About the Author
Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, on twitter as Timberry, doing social media business planning at smbplans.com, and blogging at timberry.bplans.com. Stanford MBA. Married 42 years, father of 5. Author of business plan software Business Plan Pro and www.liveplan.com and books including The Plan As You Go Business Plan, published by Entrepreneur Press, 2008.
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