Summer’s here and we’re almost at the midpoint of the calendar year. Which means the #1 question on every business leader’s mind should be: how are we doing on our journey to winning? To find out, it’s time – once again – to check in with the strategic plan to see where things stand.
I know, I know….it seems like just yesterday that we did the first-quarter checkup. But with today’s markets moving at light speed, a plan that seemed on track only a few months ago can easily get off course in that short span of time. And for those companies that didn’t perform a first-quarter checkup, enough could happen in six months to completely derail the plan.
So let’s get started.
A midyear checkup involves more than just reviewing results to date and comparing them to plan. At this point, it’s all about identifying where the plan has gone astray, making the necessary adjustments, and getting the plan back on track and people refocused on winning. Which involves one of today’s most important leadership skills – asking a lot of good questions!
Start by measuring progress toward the goal. When you first created the plan, hopefully you also created some incremental goals and objectives to serve as steppingstones to the ultimate goal. Take at look at these and ask:
- Which incremental goals have we achieved so far?
- Which ones have we not achieved?
- What got in the way of achieving them?
- Where do we stand in relation to our final destination? Are we halfway there?
- If we’re less than halfway, what do we need to do to catch up?
- If we’re halfway, have any new opportunities arisen that might allow us to get ahead of plan?
- Did we pursue something not in the original plan and lose sight of something that was and do we need to get back to that or continue in the new direction?
Next, examine the current state of your industry.
- What has changed with our markets, our customers, and our business in general during the last six months?
- How do these changes affect our plan?
- Did we foresee any of these changes in our plan?
- If not, what caused us to miss them?
- Have any new competitive threats appeared on the scene? New opportunities?
Based on the state of your market and your current standing vis-à-vis the plan, identify any areas that require corrective action, both short- and long-term.
- What adjustments need to be made to ensure that we reach our destination?
- Who will make them and by when?
- What additional resources will be required to make these course corrections?
- Do those resources exist internally or will we need to acquire them?
Data source review.
Finally, examine your data gathering process to see where it can be tweaked to assist in making better decisions.
- What assumptions did we make about our customers, markets and business when creating the plan?
- What hard data did we use to inform those assumptions?
- Are those assumptions still valid?
- If not, what caused them to change?
- What data did we not see that might have kept us from getting off course?
- Where else should we be looking to make sure we don’t miss this kind of data going forward?
Once you make adjustments to the plan, be sure to communicate them throughout the organization. Clarify all new responsibilities and accountabilities so that nothing falls through the cracks. The bigger the changes, the more often you need to communicate. Don’t just tell people what is changing; also tell them why. Most important, tell people why you will still win even though the plan hasn’t rolled out exactly as expected (it never does).
Keep in mind that the primary goal of the midyear review is to focus on what you can do over the remainder of the calendar year to reach your destination. Too often, when companies fall behind, their primary strategy is to push everything into November and December and hope to end the year with a bang. The further out we look, the more we think we can get done even if we have made no progress to date. In most cases, all this does is push you further away from where you want to end up.
Instead, map out the next three to six months by time, resources, and new incremental goals so you make progress toward the final destination. Today’s leaders have a lot on their plates. But few tasks are more important than keeping people focused on winning and making sure the organization gets there.
Call to action: Conduct your midyear review and make adjustments to your plan as necessary.