3 Simple Steps to Create a Quarterly Action Plan
Scaling a company the right way requires that you balance keeping a clear focus on those fewer, better things that will make a leveraged difference for your company and that you stay flexible to learn and adjust as you go.
On one side of the equation you have to balance the need for flexibility—markets change, opportunities arise, and tactics fail. Any action plan that is for too long of a time horizon fails to allow you the ability to morph and adapt as you go.
On the other side of the equation is the need for you to be able to build momentum, and for your staff to have the time to get meaningful blocks of work done. If you change your company’s focus too frequently, not only do you lose all your momentum, but your staff becomes dizzy with too much change.
The key to executing on your strategy to accomplish your business goals lies in the quarter. 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.
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.
In a moment I’ll share a simple, 1-page format to create your company quarterly action plan.
First though, you may ask, “Why one page?”
It’s because we’ve learned from our work coaching hundreds of companies that in the rush of the day to day, you need to be able to take in your company action plan in one whole moment. If your plan is 2 pages, or 6, or 12, you simply won’t use it effectively.
We coach our clients to review their quarterly action plans as an accountability too each week, to see what they as a company need to be focusing on and where things stand. Because their plans are 1-page, they can take it in with one look.
This discipline of working with a quarterly ONE PAGE action plan has helped our Business Coaching Clients enjoy an average annual growth rate 7-times higher than the average privately held company in the United States. Our proprietary one page format gives you a succinct, powerful visual tool to lay out what your 90-day sprint will look like each quarter.
Below is an example of what our proprietary “one page format” action plans look like, then I’ll share with you some insights to build the right plan for yourself.
Step One: Pick Your Top Three “Focus Areas” for the Quarter
Every quarter you’ll sit down and decide on what the top three focus areas for your business are for that quarter. You may decide that your focus areas are on increasing your lead flow, improving your sales conversion system, speeding up your collections cycle, or making a specific key hire.
Your Focus Areas are the three most important areas for your business to spotlight during the coming quarter. Sure, you’ll still have to “take care of business,” dealing with your normal operational needs to push the business forward, but your Focus Areas will pinpoint where you will invest a portion of your best resources that quarter because you know that these areas are what will really help you scale and develop your business.
Why do we limit your company to three Focus Areas? Because too many top priorities means you have no top priorities.
Ninety days comes fast, and if you spread your company too thin, you’ll find that you partially do more things instead of fully doing a few key chunks that actually produce value for your company.
Step Two: Clarify the Criteria for Success for Each of Your Three Focus Areas
Now that you’ve picked your three Focus Areas for the quarter, it is time to clarify your criteria of success for each. What would you need to accomplish this quarter in order to feel successful in this Focus Area?
Be ruthlessly realistic about what is possible for you to accomplish in ninety days.
Generally we suggest you try to pick criteria of success that you have control over (or at the very least you over which have a great deal of influence.) It’s important to look for criteria that are as objectively and quantitatively measurable as possible. When criteria are too subjective, you may reach the end of the quarter without agreeing on whether or not you succeeded.
Also, we suggest that for every focus area you pick one “Key Performance Indicator” (KPI) to track. If you look to this KPI to determine your performance, you’ll know if your company is on track to succeed in this Focus Area.
Your written criteria of success for each Focus Area gives you a clear yardstick against which to measure progress as you go.
Plus, laying out your criteria of success for each Focus Area before you map out your action steps provides clear clues for what you’ll actually need to take over the quarter. Most of your action steps are evident in your criteria of success.
Step Three: Lay Out Your Key Action Steps and Milestones for This Quarter
Now is the time to lay out the key action steps and milestones you need to take or reach to accomplish your criteria of success for each Focus Area over the coming quarter.
In order to keep your plan to one page, you’ll likely break each Focus Area down into five to seven action steps and milestones.
While your plan must be detailed enough to guide your actions, it must not be so detailed that you feel overwhelmed or lose yourself in the minutia.
For each action step, pick a specific team member to be ultimately responsible for executing the step by a definite date. While you can have multiple people contribute to a specific step or steps, you need to pick one person who is tasked with the responsibility and authority to get that step done and done well. We say that this person “owns” the task. This sense of ownership is critical to your success. It’s hard to hold anyone accountable for missed milestones when it wasn’t clear who was really responsible in the first place.
With this structure, the owner doesn’t have to do all of the work herself—she just needs to be responsible for making sure that it gets done in the best way possible within the company.
I hope you found these ideas on creating your own one page company action plan helpful.
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Good luck to you in growing your company.