The Essential Elements Of A Plan

After reading my blog on “Why Plan”, you’re probably wondering, “What are the  elements of a plan?”

Markets and Customers

One of the key elements of a plan is your markets and customers. You need agreement around “who we serve, what they need and why they would buy it from us”.  One company I know spent a year determining whether its customer was the diner, the restaurant, or the dealers and developers who sold to the restaurant. Everything revolves around getting your customer set right. We couldn’t develop a plan until we had figured out “Who is our customer?”

Mission, Values, Vision

A second element is the company’s mission, values and vision. The mission is “What we are in business to do”. The values are “How we do it”. And the vision is “Where we want to be in the next 3 -5 years.” Great companies know where they are going, how they will get there, and what it will look like when they arrive. And the more clarity you have, the easier it will be to communicate that to your employees.

Goals and Strategies

You need three to five goals, and strategies for each goal.  Goals are what you want to accomplish this year, e.g., revenue, new products launched, sales and marketing, and strengthening the organizational infrastructure.  “Strategies” delineate “how we’re going achieve the goals”. If the goal is to increase revenues by 30%, there are lots of ways to do that: ramp up sales to current customers – or break into a new customer market, buy another company to capture market share, contract with sales reps, go global – the list could go on. You need to pick and choose which strategy(ies) make sense, given your company’s strengths and weaknesses, financial situation, and long-term goals. And then you need to tell your staff which strategies to use when they’re developing their Action Plans.

Action Plans

Action Plans are the incremental steps needed to reach the goals. They are developed by each department; include outcomes expected within each quarter, measures of success, people responsible, and resources required.

Those developing the Action Plans need to be as specific as possible about what resources will be required to accomplish critical tasks and activities.  If the marketing department is going to do a new product launch, they may need additional staff or contractors, changes to website, budget for search engine optimization – and all this will have an impact on IT systems.

I strongly believe that Action Plans should be developed at the division and departmental level –where people are closest to the customers and understand what’s required to execute on these various initiatives.  And once the plans are finalized, you need to hold the people who developed the plan accountable for executing on the plan.