As a lifelong right brainer, I used to think of planning as a great way to waste time, delay action and suck every bit of elegance out of a creative idea. I preferred just swinging for the fences.
Truly, I had a bad impression of strategic planning. And that mostly came from an experience in which the process only resulted in a huge document (the largest three-ring binder they make) stuffed with complex ideas, unattainable goals and an overwhelming number of strategies and tactics. On top of that, we dedicated hundreds of hours to it.
Today, however, I have come to appreciate that planning can, and must, drive toward an achievable direction for the company in order to have impact.
The keys to a planning process that has impact are:
- Have the humility to see where the company really stands.
- Set your sights on a single make or break point.
- Bring divergent thinking by letting your team freely bring creative ideas for initiatives.
- Be brutal about prioritizing your efforts to only those actions that yield the highest return.
- Have a one-page plan that links tactics to strategies to objectives to goals.
- Institutionalize that plan into an operational plan or GANTT chart.
This process has been a principal ingredient in our recent significant revenue and profit successes. When everyone has input and understanding regarding the plan, everyone at the company is rowing in the same direction. And people have fun that way.
Most of these elements we have borrowed from others (Procter & Gamble, Stephen Covey, etc.), but we have packaged them in a way that works for a company like ours. We want to be smart, aware, agile and energized as we execute plans.
Focus on the make or break
After you and your people conduct an honest, complete assessment of the issues and opportunities (a SWOT and situation analysis), start to distill the biggest issues that face your business.
Then comes the hard part of answering the question, “What is the one thing, that if we do it better in the future than we do today, gets us closer to our vision?” What one thing will get you to the promised land? It could be distribution, customer service, creating scale or improved quality. Your make or break is your singular focus.
Next, home in on the four to six things you want the organization to focus on that will achieve that make or break. This, too, is a challenging exercise. Involve the whole team. Brainstorm new ideas or repackage old efforts with a new twist. Categorize all these initiatives on four quadrants based on impact versus effort. Through this process, you will pull out the few most important initiatives upon which you want the organization solely focused.
Each big rock will have a clear one-page plan that connects backward — tactics to strategies to objectives to the goal.
Keep planning simple. Keep it focused. Make it engaging. Make it powerful.
Tom Krouse is president and CEO of Donatos Pizza. Tom has over three decades of restaurant industry experience, countless civic contributions and an award-winning career in marketing and management.