Like many organizations, yours has spent considerable time developing a strategic plan for the next 2-3 years or updating an existing one. You, and perhaps your team, have spent a lot of time working through market scenarios, the competitive environment, product development roadmaps or service delivery options. As a result, you have likely looked at a number of financial models. All of this work is the basis for the new business plan. So now you have a 2010 business plan – and given the current economic environment chances are it is not business as usual. If it is business as usual – read no further. If your plans or direction has changed or will change then you may have missed a key step. What could that be?
What may be missing is the very thing that will make your plan a success or a failure, the single largest cost in the financial model, your people and your partners. Before you start running or expect others to run for you:
Rethink “The Skills”
Whether your organization is delivering service differently or selling new products, don’t assume these can be done with the same skills used in last year’s world. Some organizations cut all training and development during 2009, others continued some training but was it forward thinking? Including a review of your employee skills in the planning stages ensures they are able to help you deliver on your new plan. Implementing training as early on in the process means people are ready to run on the first day of the fiscal year. Taking these actions as an after thought puts the organization behind the curve and the first quarter ‘at risk’. Communicating upcoming changes, as early as possible, to your partners and suppliers can help them gear up to support you without the loss of valuable time.
Revisit “The Desired Culture”
Our mantra here at The PartnerFirm is “Culture | Behaviours | Focus | Results”. We utilize a methodology for articulating the culture required to win by looking at the fiscal year and strategic plans and calling out the behaviours needed for success. These are behavioural skills, whereas, the skills in the “Re-think” step above are hard or technical skills. For example, if the organization is entering a new market – it’s critical to determine what it will take to sell in that market. If the past or current selling style is relationship based and the new market requires a more aggressive approach, chances are, the sales team, as a whole, can’t deliver. Determining the behaviours the organization needs demonstrated, by members of the team, can become the key to success. Building this work into your planning process allows the time required to ensure that recruiting is focused on finding the right people, people that demonstrate the behaviours needed. Remember (culture - behaviours) + (focus) = results.
Re-evaluate “The People”
The next step is to do a gap analysis. Consider employees in every function and determine whether you have any gaps in technical skill sets and put together a training plan. Now cross reference everyone to the list of behaviours the organization needs to be successful in its new business plan or strategy. These are tougher and may not be trainable. As they say, “you can’t change the spots on a leopard”. Create your list of behaviours (teamwork, customer focus, collegial, high energy, entrepreneurial and so on) and then conduct behavioural interviews with your people and partners to determine what, if any, gaps exist. This is the best, bias-free approach to determining job and culture fit, even internally. There are varying degrees of customer service, as we all know unfortunately, but those who are truly good at it – actually enjoy it and live it. Decide if you can live with the gaps people may demonstrate, if you determine the gap is too wide – it’s time to get someone who delivers. Tough decisions, tough times.
After Re-think, Revisit, and Re-evaluate, there is one last MUST DO and that is revamp. Revamp your existing recruiting and selection process to ensure you bring people in by including behavioural interviewing to detect the behaviours you’ve identified. Revamp your existing performance management program to set goals that reinforce those who demonstrate the desired behaviours and clearly identify those who do not (yes – you can rate performance in behaviours!). And finally, revamp your rewards, compensation and bonus/commission programs to recognize those that deliver. If left as is, these programs will work counter to your change efforts by not focusing on and rewarding or paying for the “new” way of doing things.
One last Caveat
This is not just a process that applies to the troops. Leadership team members should also be assessed. Nothing will tank a program faster than a leader that is not on board.
And leadership has new challenges in the current economic environment. As noted in a recent McKinsey article “The range of possible futures confronting business today is great.” Leaders must demonstrate, in addition to other behaviours, flexibility, awareness, creativity, and resiliency in order for the organization to prosper. Perhaps most importantly, they must expect and foster the same from their teams.