Imagine that your spouse comes to you and says: “Let’s go on a trip and have some fun.”
It sounds intriguing. You ask a few questions to get clarity.
YOU: “So Honey, why do you want to do that?”
HER: “Well, I’m bored. Life seems kind of static lately and I think we should change things up a bit.”
YOU: “Where do you want to go?”
HER: “Heck, let’s just head West.”
YOU: “When do you want to go there?”
HER: “I think some time this year would be good.”
YOU: “What are we going to do there?”
HER: “Let’s just be spontaneous.”
YOU: “How do you want to get there?”
HER: “Let’s drive. We can take turns.”
YOU: “Which vehicle should we take, the new, all-wheel-drive Subaru, the old 60’s beater, the compact with good gas mileage, or the pick up?”
HER: “Let’s just randomly pick one.”
YOU: “Who should we invite to go with us?”
HER: “We’ll drive by a few couple’s homes on the way out of town and ask them if they want to come.”
So for those of you who like to plan for the future, how do you think this trip is going to go? Perhaps a bit like the movie “The Hangover?”
Admittedly this spontaneous trip scenario is a bit far-fetched. Most of us need more clarity, organization and planning in our lives in order to visualize what we want, much less achieve successful results in whatever we are doing.
Yet the answer to these seven questions are not always clearly understood or communicated in most businesses and organizations. In my experience, less than 5 percent of small business owners and organization leaders have gone through a thoughtful process of answering, much less documenting, these seven questions. What I am told by countless business owners and leaders is: “Everyone knows where we are going and why it is important; I talk about it all the time.”
But most of us can’t read minds. If we ask everyone what the boss’s plan is for the company, we get as many interpretations as the number of people we ask. It is like an orchestra conductor who announces to his musicians: “We are going to rehearse my favorite Mozart opera. Please come to rehearsal ready to contribute at your best level.” The seven questions would immediately start flowing from his musicians or nothing productive would occur.
Let us orient these seven questions in a manner that if thoughtfully answered will actually create a plan for a business or organization.
Why — Why are we taking this business trip together? Define your purpose or mission for starting and being in this business.
Where — Where do you want this business to go? Create your vision and intention with specific goals and targets.
When — When do you want to achieve your specific goals and targets?
What — What are we going to do? What are the customer’s needs and what products and services are we intending to satisfy them with?
How — How are we going to accomplish customer satisfaction in a profitable manner?
Which — Which specific resources will be required?
Who — Who are the key individuals who want to participate and who are qualified to profoundly help along the way?
Before you begin to answer these questions, consider: who should be working with you to optimally answer the seven questions, and do you have a format in which to document and organize your answers? The format when filled in becomes your documented plan for achieving and sustaining your success.
Many times it is useful to get an outside coach who can impartially guide you through this process and may also be able to supply the right format for documentation, one that also tracks results. The format I recommend is “Path to Success” by The Mastermind Group, Inc.
The key to the right format is clarity, simplicity and ease of use. The right planning tool to guide your business needs to be used and updated once a month. It is like a GPS system that tracks where you are now in relation to where you want to go and that provides the best directions along the way. If you get off track or behind schedule, the new adjustments are updated into the planning format. This updated format keeps the plan “alive” and relevant. It is as close to real time as possible.
An undocumented plan is no plan at all. Could you build or remodel a house without blueprints? A contractor could not bid on your job or know what people are required to do each phase. Without good blueprints you can’t be sure what materials are needed and what the sequence for construction will be.
The people in your organization are going to have difficulty helping you build your company without a documented “blueprint” for action. In order to be effective they need to know the “Path to Success” and where they personally fit into the plans. The team needs to know how everyone’s specialty, knowledge and skills can best be applied.
Moreover, if the key people were involved in helping build the plan in the first place, then their level of commitment and understanding should be close to that of the owner. Assuring daily engagement and performance is more likely if your people have a vested interest in the plan’s execution.
Since an undocumented plan is no plan at all, the people may be thinking that the “plan” in the boss’s head is just the boss’s latest ‘&#*%’ idea.
Bert Holeton of Leavenworth is the founder and CEO of The Mastermind Group, Inc., which supports leaders of organizations and businesses to achieve and sustain success. Since 1980, he has consulted with over 60 companies in 14 industries ranging in size from startup to Fortune 100.