Last week I wrote a blog about annual planning being good for business. This week, I thought I'd continue on with that idea to the next, and equally as crucial, step -- executing the strategy. Planning is great, but without actionable items that can be executed to meet the goals...it's nearly a wasted effort. (I would argue there is still some benefits since now the entire team is on the same page as far as goals of the organization, but to truly enjoy the full success, there needs to be action.)
An industry consult shared his method with me. His toolkit uses a set of 15 to 20 strategic leverage points, such as pricing, promotions, capital investment, staffing, training, etc. For each point, he has operators set a specific, measurable, achievable and compatible (SMAC) goal. The next step is to define tactical actions, usually two or three, tied to each goal. Then execute them.
In our own long range planning process, we informally follow a similar style. We setting up specific goals and strategies. Then we decide on an action plan. An individual (or team) is then assigned to the action. The individual leads the initiate and reports on its progress through the year. The action plans are both long term and short term, both broad and narrow. By assigning a person to be responsible, there is a better chance it will get done and there is accountability.
Not all action items will be profitable, certainly. Some need to be cut early on. By having a way to measure their success (either with benchmarking and reporting, or other method), you can easily stop investing time and money into that action if it's not going to provide a return. On the flip side, don't cut the funding too soon. Look at the long term rewards. Changes such as adding vending management systems, cashless readers and other technology is expensive in the short term. And some programs require quite a bit of training. However, there is a large amount of research out there that illustrates the positive return on investment for those enhancements, even if it is not immediate.
Never forget that while planning may take place once a year, these actionable strategies need to happen throughout the year. And they must remain flexible. Maybe 15 is too many for your business, maybe it needs to one or two per segment. Perhaps you need goals per department and let each department decide on action and measurement. There are as many planning and strategic action tools as there are experts creating them. It's a matter of finding the right one for you that both matches your culture and that works well enough for your organization that everyone will stick with it even in busy times and months after the planning meeting. Being successful isn't based on one great meeting a year, but on a perpetual process of assessment and action that work together continuously.