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Are You Ready for 2011? – Planning Your Business

The holidays are ideal for spending time with family and friends. A good holiday break will recharge your batteries and get you excited about the coming year. The holidays are also an appropriate time to prepare yourself and your employees for the coming business year. Business planning helps you craft a clear, integrated plan of direction and brings focus to goal setting, decision making, accountability and daily business activity.

Planning is often viewed as one of those "important" but not "urgent" tasks. It is easily set aside when things are busy - and especially when business appears to be running smoothly. But remember, planning doesn't deal with the here and now; it deals with the future. Effective planning drives success and mitigates risk.

So, back to my question... Are you ready for 2011? If you're not thinking about planning for the coming year, you should be! The good news is that it is not too late.

How to Get Started...

  • First, think "quick and efficient". There is no need to overdo it. Set aside 3 to 5 hours (total) of planning time. Adjust as needed depending on the size and complexity of your organization.
  • Involve others in the process. It is impossible to single handedly execute your plan; you will need buy-in and help from other key influencers. Get them involved early and place a high value on their input.
  • Set an agenda. Develop and communicate your planning process in advance. Most people need time to prepare themselves mentally.
  • Pre-work. A brief questionnaire prior to the first gathering is a good idea to stimulate thinking. "What worked especially well in 2010?" "What has been our biggest weakness over the past 12 months?" "What's the most important thing we need to accomplish in 2011?"
  • Avoid group-think. Remember the old cliché, "great minds think alike, but only fools always agree." So align your attitude for optimal group dynamics. Encourage creativity, openness, and vigorous dialog to surface real issues, potential solutions, and new ideas.
Top 10 topics for discussion...

  1. How did you measure up against your 2010 goals? What did you do well to reach your goals? What impeded your progress? What are the major gaps that need to be addressed?
  2. What must you do in the coming 12 months to respond to the demands of the marketplace?
  3. What adjustments are required to remain competitive or improve your competitive standing?
  4. What new capabilities, products, or services need to be developed?
  5. What can you do to improve customer satisfaction and retention?
  6. What operational adjustments will be needed?
  7. How will you measure success? What are your goals and objectives?
  8. What leadership and team performance characteristics and behaviors are required?
  9. How should you align your marketing and business development resources?
  10. What are the key organizational initiatives necessary to close gaps and drive performance?
Put your plan into action...

  • Start with a plan that is well written and concise. It should be condensed down to primary goals, objectives, key initiatives, and responsibilities (you need a way to assure accountability).
  • The plan needs to be communicated in a consistent fashion to all employees through "all-hands", department, and team meetings. The point is to ensure that each and every employee understands how they will contribute to the plan and how their success will be measured.
  • Every key initiative requires an executive sponsor (or champion) to steer the effort; however they should involve employee teams and be driven by their input and work. Include as many people as is reasonable. This promotes engagement and professional development.
  • Monitor and assess progress. Key initiative teams should report to the executive team on a periodic basis. The executive team should hold quarterly planning update meetings to measure progress, assess goal attainment, and ensure continuity.
  • Be agile and make adjustments as needed.
  • Take the time to celebrate successes!
Consistent attention and a disciplined approach make the difference between a relevant plan that drives business success and a group exercise that results in a dust-gathering written report. So get 2011 started on the right foot. Make planning an integral and regular part of how you run your business; not an unconnected event.

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Author:. David Liddell, president and founder of SKYE Business Solutions, is an insightful and trusted advisor to organizations  interested in improving their performance and results. Based on more than 20 years of experience in organizational and business development, he objectively evaluates organizations and their employees to identify opportunities for increased efficiencies and productivity. Recognizing that employees play a key role in a company's performance, David utilizes his analysis to cr... Go Deeper | Website