Last week I met with two smart people looking to kick-start a better planning process for an existing organization. The question at hand was what to do first. My answer was:
- First, start by scheduling plan reviews and course corrections. Figure out who’s participating how and when. Assume this means a 90-minute monthly meeting for the key management team, and a 2-3 hour thrice yearly meeting for upper management and board of directors. Modify that as needed to accommodate the unique characteristics of your organization. Put the meetings on the calendar.
- Second, develop metrics. The planning needs metrics to drive it, so people can track how they’re doing and refer back to the plan as the performance guideline.
Notice that my two key points are not about the plan: not about its content, its format, its framework, or facilitation, or how long it is or isn’t.
These are actually the planning equivalent to the gardening concept of preparing the soil before you plant. Don’t waste seeds if they aren’t going to grow. And, regardless of what will be the content of the plan, eventually, with these two points you work first to make sure, at least as much as you can, that there will be following up so the plan will make a difference.
It’s a reminder to me how much of the success of planning is about the people rather than the plan. People love to work with metrics to show their performance. And people care more about following up on plans when they know that somebody will be reviewing the results.