Eleven Steps in The Planning Process

While the plan is your roadmap, the process by which you develop that roadmap is equally important.  Let me quickly outline the 11 steps in the planning process.

Do the following in Q3 of your fiscal year:

Step 1 External Assessments are important because they force you to stop being inwardly focused and force you to look out and assess your external environment, e.g., review your markets, customers, competition, trends, major opportunities and threats.

Step 2 Internal Assessments are used to determine whether your organization can sustain more growth. You need to assess your people, culture, Executive Team, infrastructure, IT hardware and software, and so forth.

Step 3: Review and modify, if necessary your mission, values, vision.

Step 4: Establish the goals and strategies for the coming year and then do Steps 5 – 8 in Q4:

Step 5: Ask the divisions and the departments to draft their Action Plans which describe how they will achieve the goals, using the strategies you identified.

Step 6: Schedule anoff-site” Planning Retreat where each director presents his or her plans to other directors, and/or the Executive Team.  Depending on what other departments are planning to do, the drafts of individual Action Plans may need to change.  If the product isn’t scheduled for launch until Q3 and sales and marketing was assuming a Q2 launch, they’ll need to adjust their plans.  If several departments complain they don’t have the information they need to manage, IT may need to add “selection and installation of new software and hardware” to its plans and budgets for the coming year.

Step 7: Department directors then finalize Action Plans and turn them in for approval.  Note:  the responsibility to make sure budgets, plans and timelines are aligned rests on the shoulders of the Executive Team, President and the CEO.

Step 8, Final approval of individual plans, development of a company-wide plan (a summary version of the detailed departmental Action Plans), and development of the budget (and financial plan) should all happen the last month of the fiscal year.

The following happens in the new year:

Step 9:  At the beginning of the new fiscal year, you announce the company’s plan, send budgets to each department, and put those plans into action.

Step 10: It’s now all about execution, i.e., working the plan every day.  As they say, “Plan your work and work your plan”.

Step 11 Build in times, at the end of each quarter, for a one-day off-site Plan Review with your Executive Team to reevaluate progress, discuss changes in market conditions, and make adjustments to the plan, as needed. While you may need to adjust the strategies and Action Plans, try hard to stick to your goals.

Technology plays a critical role in planning. Enterprise software programs are very helpful. You need to mine your databases and look at trends in sales, revenue, and expenses. Use technology to track progress and to help identify weak spots or early warning signs of cash flow crises, or pending problems in inventory or sales. If planning brings order to the chaos of growth, technology is a critical support to the planning process.