Off the shelf Featured

7:32am EDT January 30, 2004
I spend a great deal of time convincing people of the benefits of planning, explaining it is not that difficult and can actually be fun.

You get to choose goals and then decide how you will achieve them. When else in your job as a business owner or manager can you move away from the reality of today and think about what you would like the reality to be in the future?

Why, then, do so many people groan whenever planning is mentioned?

My bet is that the groaners have either been involved with or heard stories about intense planning processes -- the type in which the participants invested time and energy into developing a plan they truly believed in and were excited about, but it was then placed on the shelf once it was announced to their organization.

Planning processes have a bad reputation, not because they don't work but because they are not allowed to work. The only way a planning process can provide the organization and its people with real benefits is if the plan gets off the shelf.

Two things are needed for a planning process to produce real results. The first is a commitment by management that the plan will not simply end up as a nice-looking binder among other books and paperwork. Management must support the plan and manage by it.

The second, and perhaps even more important requirement, is to involve the organization in the process. The more people that get involved in at least some part of the planning process, the better the chances for real payback.

By their involvement, people gain ownership in the plan, then create and maintain the momentum that ensures it gets implemented. Successful implementation then becomes less dependent on management.

However, true involvement must be more than the announcement of a management-developed plan at a company meeting and a few rah-rah speeches about how this plan will move the company forward to new heights. Real involvement means being a participant in the process itself, and having opportunities to provide meaningful input. It means some part of the plan (even if it's a very small part) must have your employees' signatures on it.

The right planning process enables you to enjoy the creative aspects of the project. It excites and even grows your team through their involvement. And it produces a plan that doesn't have much chance of getting stuck on a shelf. Joel Strom (jstrom@jsagrowth.com) is director of Joel Strom Associates LLC, the growth management practice of C&P Advisors LLC. The firm works exclusively with closely held businesses and their ownership, helping them set and achieve growth objectives while maximizing their profitability and value. Contact him at (216) 831-2663.