Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II supposedly said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” This sounds like a very practical approach to planning to me and I like Ike’s thinking on this issue.
Here are three of the biggest planning mistakes: Not planning at all, not planning enough and planning too much. There – since it is also the political rhetoric season, I think I’ve covered most of the bases with that general statement.
One other thing you might want to be careful with: Preparing too many different planning documents. A well-articulated planning statement, or document, should generally guide the activities of all employees. Unfortunately, too much of anything usually turns out to be counterproductive – and that includes planning. I’ve encountered companies that for some reason felt the need to develop a strategic planning statement, a vision statement, a mission statement, a statement of their creed (whatever that is) and many other statements that supposedly serve to focus and drive employee behavior. Unfortunately multiple statements usually only confuse employees. Employees end up scratching their heads and wondering which of the plethora of statements matters most. And you would think companies that produce such multiple statements would make sure they are in harmony – unfortunately this is rarely the case.
So, what’s the bare minimum for an effective plan? I believe an effective plan should cover three basic planning elements: A vision statement, a statement assessing the current reality and an action plan. That’s it.
A vision statement is a well-articulated statement of the results you desire to create with your business. In other words, it answers the questions: “What would things look like if everything was going right with the business?” For example, this statement might include relatively specific statements such as, “Our employees are well-trained and competent.” At a minimum, the statement should focus on the people, processes, products and resources needed to successfully conduct business.
An assessment of the current reality focuses more on where you are right now in relation to your vision. These two statements taken together allow you to clearly articulate the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.
Once you’ve completed these first two steps, the action plan should be relatively easy. Make a list of specific, measurable steps you can take to close the gap. In other words, reconcile the vision statement with your current reality statement. For example, if you choose to make a statement such as the one above about well-trained and competent people, there should be a corresponding statement (or statements) related to the specifics of exactly how you’re going to improve your employees’ skills. No vision statement claim should be left dangling without a corresponding specific, measurable step in the action plan.
Use whatever format you’d like. Just make sure you cover these three bases and as the year unfolds … think like Ike.
Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting and author of several books on improving productivity. Contact him through www.dmetraining.com.