How’s your vision? Is it improving? This question posed in a previous column was designed to draw attention to the need to focus on your business. Having a plan to win requires a good strategy. A good design provides a clear roadmap, consisting of a set of guiding principles or rules, defining the actions people in the business should take (and not take) and what they should prioritize (and not prioritize) to achieve desired goals.
A good plan begins with a proper perspective. A good strategy requires adequate planning, and planning requires having a proper perspective about where the business is today.
Once perspective is achieved, the question of why the business exists requires an answer. That response defines the mission of the company. It establishes the purpose and foundation of the organization.
CRAFTING A VISION
Once the mission is defined, the next step in developing a plan is vision casting, describing the preferred future of the business. With the heavy work completed, perspective reveals where the company presently stands. A carefully crafted vision shows where the organization is heading and, just as important, how it will get there.
Suppose you are standing on one of the tallest peaks in the Rocky Mountains, celebrating the arrival of reaching this pinnacle. Suddenly, out in the distance, you see another more towering peak, one that is more inviting, a bit more intriguing than the one you are presently standing on. No longer satisfied with your present situation, you have a new goal, a new challenge to undertake.
It requires some planning to arrive at this new destination. Taking a running leap and jumping is not going to cut it. Navigating the forests, rivers, valleys and hazardous surroundings requires careful thought and preparation to reach the new destination.
That’s the purpose of a vision; it provides an accurate picture of where the enterprise stands; a vivid, beneficial and meaningful perception of where the organization is headed, and realistic insight into how it will get there. A vision shared with a team magnetizes. It draws resources and people to it. The more people understand the vision and how they fit in, the better performance you will get out of them.
Focus on ‘W.I.N.’s
We are constantly bombarded with distractions and interruptions, causing us to lose focus and productivity. They can disrupt a well-laid-out plan and a dynamic vision. When locked in on a project, a new shiny object comes along, and we’re quick to cast aside our current tasks to chase this new object.
The legendary Notre Dame football coach, Lou Holtz, understood the challenge and discipline of staying focused. When asked about his secret for success, he responded, “We W.I.N. every day.” W.I.N is an acronym for “What’s Important Now.” Holtz instructed his players to ask themselves “what’s important now” multiple times during the day, while in class, showering, studying or on the practice field. Coach Holtz wanted his players focused on what mattered most.
How do you know what’s important now? Making lists that include the core issues within the organization is a start, and a list should be made for where you are now, where you’re headed, and how you’ll get there.
When flying, pilots typically rely on a dashboard to guide their flight. They use a series of indicator lights and gauges to judge how well the flight is going. The dashboard provides the information if adjustments need to be made in flight. Is there enough fuel? Does the plane need to fly at a different altitude to avoid some severe weather? Does the flight need to veer off course slightly to avoid turbulence or nearby traffic?
Creating a business dashboard is a critical tool to ensure the plan developed is on track to succeed. The dashboard can be broken down into three columns, in an at-a-glance format, for an organization to see its performance objectives surrounded by the indicator lights of both the drivers that fuel performance and the indicator lights that show the risks and constraints that can slow performance.
Risks are obstacles that are typically external to a business. Examples include price erosion, supplier quality, pandemic or inflationary pressures.
Constraints are handcuffs. They are typically internal and are, therefore, controllable. They restrict, they confine and they perpetuate the status quo. They may be visible or invisible. A constraint may be a cultural aspect (“we are risk-averse”). A constraint might be an obscure policy governing how something is done.
The performance model clarifies financial tolerances and benchmarks critical to the leadership for successful performance, such as profits, EBITA, ROA, Asset Turns or other industry-specific measurements.
Performance drivers are strategic and/or operational drivers to accomplish the outcomes identified in the performance model. A performance driver greatly influences the qualities and profits of a business. An example of performance drivers could be the number of leads required to meet your financial goal. Other examples could be the cost per lead, warranty expenses, customer deposits or the number of retainers received.
The key is to review the dashboard regularly and make the necessary adjustments while executing the plan. Otherwise, you may discover too late the corrections needed to steer the business back on course.
Creating a plan to win requires involving and communicating it to the entire team. A knowledgeable team that is healthy and aligned will move a business quickly toward the preferred outcome far faster than a plan that sits on a shelf collecting dust.
Creating a plan to win is less daunting if you follow this methodology. It can open your eyes to new possibilities, growth opportunities and a well-defined business with a bright future. Chaos is the result when a clear strategy and vision are absent. ▪
Dan Luck owns Bella Domicile in Madison, WI. He has been an S.E.N. Member since 2002 and has led the S.E.N. Leadership Team since 2018, conducting scores of the group’s educational programs. Please visit http://sendesigngroup/education for more information. Dan welcomes questions and comments at [email protected]).