Throughout our lives, we're told that preparation is everything. We make New Year's resolutions, create vision boards, and write endless to-do lists. If we fail to plan, we plan to fail, which explains why so many leaders feel the overwhelming need to map out the company's future well in advance. From profit margins to marketing campaigns, success is intrinsically linked to a clear vision, and more importantly, an organized program to get there.
There is certainly truth to having a solid business plan and setting long-term goals for your company. Establishing key objectives and results are initiatives that leaders are programmed to do. Foreseeing an unforeseeable future is thought to make the company more efficient, organized, and prepared. However, planning so far into the future could actually be harming your company's growth, staff engagement, and leadership abilities.
Yes, goals are important, but so too is having the flexibility to adapt, change, and stray from the program. That's why leaders should scale back large-scale planning to just 90-day increments. Not only will this save time, but it will also give your staff refreshed and renewed energy to quickly adapt to the market. When a business can shift and pivot, it will often attract top talent who are eager to work for a leader that understands the importance of staying agile and creative.
Let Go of the Fear
Given the volatility of business, it's understandable why leaders like to feel prepared. A plan is a source of comfort. It's trackable, scalable, and accountable. A plan provides direction when we steer off course, and outlines clear measurements and return on investment. Creating one-, two-, or five-year plans of action puts everyone at ease, avoiding the daunting challenge of trying to answer, "So, now what?".
However, that's the exact question you should be asking. It may seem like you'll be scrambling every quarter, but in today's market, relevance and timing are everything. You can't predict what hashtag will be trending, if an employee will resign, or if you'll sign a big contract. The needs of the company, staff, and consumers will change constantly. So instead of fearing the unknown, embrace it. It's when we step outside of our boundaries that we often step-up our performance.
Stop Wasting of Time
Anyone who has put together an annual business plan can tell you how much work it is. It can often take weeks, sometimes months, to decipher budgets, project profits, and create campaigns. Unfortunately, it can take much less time until you realize that your hard work is completely irrelevant.
So instead of wasting time creating a plan (and following an outdated one), step back every three months and assess what's working, what's not working, and what needs to be changed. More importantly, don't spend one week deciding what to do for the next eleven. Have the data ready and react accordingly, trusting these next steps to the people who know their niche of the company better than anyone.
While running a business minute-by-minute is by no means a better alternative, neither is sticking to a rigid and inflexible set of rules that are often outdated a week after they're established. What happens when something pops up 'not according to plan'? If you miss a key opportunity simply because it wasn't on a spreadsheet, is this plan really worth following?
The key to making these 90-day plans work for the long term is to keep everyone accountable. Track their progress through applications like Asana or Slack, and then meet with your team at the beginning, mid-point, and end of 90 day period. Trust that your staff will stay on top of the current trends and act in the company's best interest.