Creating Your “Strategic Structure” to Make Smart Choices and Execute to Get Results
Content was originally published on Inc.com on July 6, 2016.
How do you consistently get your company to invest its time, talent, attention, and money on the right things in the face of so many demands and urgencies crying out for its resources?
You lean heavily on the strategic structure you’ve built for your company.
At its most basic form, your strategic structure is how your business rationally and effectively plans its pathway forward as you scale.
It includes your annual planning to set goals and create your map for the coming year; quarterly planning to check in on progress and gain clarity for the coming quarter’s action plan; and weekly execution and accountability to follow your quarterly action plan and get the results you want.
When you repeat and refine how you go through your strategic planning and execution, you define and reinforce your strategic structure.
Let’s start with your annual planning…
Your annual planning includes you asking questions like:
1. What business you are trying to build? Over the next 3-5 years what is your number one business goal?
Too many business owners never stop and clarify in writing the business they are working so hard to create.
What does your ideal business look like in 3-5 years?
What does it look like quantitatively? (E.g. What are its sales figures… its market share… its margins… the size of the average client… etc.)
What does it look like qualitatively? (E.g. What is it known for… what niches does it focus on… who are its best customers… what does the team look like… etc.)
2. Where do you currently stand in relationship to your number one business goal?
In other words, you’re looking to identify the “gap.”
If you are working to build a $15 million per year sales volume in the next 5 years with an operating profit margin of 20 percent, where do you stand right now? What is the “gap” that you’ll have to bridge between where you are today and where you want to get to in the future?
In your annual strategic planning you’ll create your written map to bridge (or at least narrow) this gap.
3. What is your single biggest “limiting factor” inside your business?
In other words, what one limitation is currently doing the most to limit the growth and success of your business?
Getting clear on your limiting factor is one of your top leverage points inside of your business. It is a great clue to where you should invest some of your top resources of time, attention, money, and talent to create a big result for your business.
4. What are 10+ potential ways to push back or make your limiting factors less limiting for your business?
Again, this is the challenge worth solving. When you do solve it, you automatically grow your business in a leveraged way! So get your leadership team together and brainstorm as many ways as you can to push that limiting factor back, or make it irrelevant.
5. Go back through your list of 10 “solutions”, which of your potential ideas are “low hanging fruit?”
Low Hanging Fruit means that the solution is easy to implement or straight forward to implement, and it has a high likelihood of working, of producing a result.
6. Go back through your list of 10 “solutions”, which of your potential ideas are a “home run”?
A home run is a solution that if it works, the payoff is BIG!
7. Which ideas are your “sweet spots”?
Going back to your above list of 10 solutions to each of your limiting factors, circle the solutions that are both a low hanging fruit and a home run. These are your “sweet spots”. By definition these are the critical areas you need to invest the best resources inside your business. They are easy to do/high likelihood of working and they have a BIG payoff.
Taking all of this into consideration, map out your year.
• What are you revenue goals?
• Your profit goals?
• Your other “KPI” (Key Performance Indicator) goals?
• What is your strategy to reach these goals?
• What is your rough plan – quarter by quarter – to execute on your strategy and reach your goals?
Now, armed with your annual map, next you’ll need to create your quarterly plan of action. Why quarterly? Because the quarter is the perfect unit of time to bridge your big-picture goals, which likely have a two- to five-year timeline or longer, and your weekly planning and daily action. The quarter is the key to executing on your strategy to accomplish your business goals.
It’s long enough that you can get meaningful units of work done that collectively bring you closer to your long-term goals, but short enough so that you can frequently course correct and hold your focus.
For over a decade now I’ve pushed our business coaching clients to follow our one-page plan of action. You likely are asking why this strong bias for a one-page plan of action, why not 2 pages, or 5, or 25 pages? Why one page?
Because I’ve learned from our work coaching hundreds of companies that in the rush of the day to day, if your plan is 2 pages, or 3 pages you just won’t use it weekly to guide your execution of that plan. With a one-page plan you’ll review it every week, and pull the needed action steps for you to add into your weekly execution system. Plus you’ll be able to review your key leadership team’s quarterly one-page action plan each week and quickly check in and hold them accountable for their behaviors too. In essence your one-page plan of action becomes your quarterly and weekly GPS to make sure that your team is focusing on the right things, and hitting the key milestones on time.
Here’s a link to an earlier article I wrote on exactly how to create your one-page plan of action.
The final element of your Strategic Structure is your weekly accountability and execution. I’ve developed a concrete tool to help you execute weekly called, The Big Rock Report. Essentially the way this tool works is that each week, at the start of the week, you and your key staff each pick 2-3 “Big Rocks”. Big Rocks are specific action steps, tasks, or chunks of a key project that if you did them in the coming week would do the most to progress your business towards its most important goals. Why do I call them Big Rocks? Because these are the big things from which you build your success, week-by-week, quarter-by-quarter, year-by-year.
Each Big Rock should be something that takes no more than two hours. If it likely will take longer, then break it down into a smaller bite sized chunk. Why two hours or less? Because it’s unlikely you’ll be consistently be able to block off a bigger chunk of time. By keeping your Big Rocks to steps you can take and complete in a 1-2 hour “chunk” or less, you’ll increase your odds of getting them done.
So the first part of your weekly “Big Rock Report” is to review how you did on your prior week’s Big Rocks. Did you get them all done? What were the outcomes? What did you learn? Any next steps still needed?
Then you list out your Big Rocks for the coming week. Review your one-page action plan, what steps do you need to take this coming week to keep yourself on target to meet or exceed your quarterly plan of action?
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