Have you ever found yourself in this situation? You’re mid-way through the fiscal year when you’re presented with a fantastic opportunity. Unfortunately, you’re forced to pass it up because it wasn’t in the budget.
If your company is like most others, you spend seemingly endless hours in annual planning meetings discussing spreadsheets, crunching numbers, prioritizing line items, trying to predict what opportunities might arise and estimate just how much the year ahead will cost. Traditional strategic planning looks at long-term history in attempts to plan for long-term future. It may be the way things have gotten done in businesses around the world for generations, but it’s not the way to be successful in the future.
But in a world where technology moves faster than business and has the power to change everything in the blink of an eye, annual planning is becoming archaic. It’s static planning for a dynamic world.
It’s time to step away from tradition and into a new way of planning. Invest more time in maximizing productivity and flexibility. Stop wasting time trying to pin down every little detail only to pin yourself down by a plan that doesn’t allow any breathing room.
An article in the Wall Street Journal puts it, “Organizations need to blow apart the traditional budgeting process, become more dynamic and refocus on crucial management functions individually.”
So turn your back on static annual planning. Begin dynamic planning.
What is dynamic planning? It’s planning with a balance of strategy and flexibility. It attempts to take the big picture into account in order to make a broad, responsible plan for the year ahead. But also, revisiting that plan regularly – perhaps quarterly – to ensure it is where it needs to be right now.
A dynamic plan allows employees to take intelligent risks, pursue unforeseen opportunities, respond swiftly to threats, adopt new technology, and carryout new ideas – all for the betterment of the business.
If you haven’t made the shift yet, here are some tips to get you started.
Set clear goals
Having clear, big-picture goals is just as important in dynamic planning as it was in static planning. When they are in place, they can serve as the measuring stick for whether or not an opportunity is worth investing the required resources.
For example, let’s say new software is launched that has everyone in the industry buzzing. You didn’t see it coming and, therefore, didn’t plan for it. Your primary goal for the year is to increase sales rep time in the field selling while decreasing the amount of time they need to spend in the office for meetings, planning or replenishing their inventory of content or sales materials.
Perhaps after researching the newly launched software, you find it has features that would allow your reps to communicate more efficiently with coworkers and access content and sales materials remotely. These and other features you learn about are very likely to help your reps spend more time out in their territories selling and reduce the need to spend so much time in the office.
At this point, it looks like this new software could be worth the investment, as long as further research continues to strongly suggest it will help your company you achieve its primary goal.
Shrink your outlook
Static planning tries to predict what things will be like a year from now or even more. Try to scale down your thinking to just 90 days. Focus on one quarter, major milestone, or product launch at a time.
With those big-picture goals in place for the long haul, you’re freed up to focus on the short term. And by deepening your focus on the here and now and allowing yourself and your team to take risks and pounce upon new opportunities, you could drastically change what the next short-term window of time will look like.
Let’s say that with static planning, your company predicts Q3 of next year to be relatively slow. It’s always slow. Your customers are vacationing and thinking about getting their kids back to school. They’re not buying from you. So you plan for a slow Q3. You bake it into the annual strategy. You inadvertently prepare your reps for a slow Q3. And, what do you know? After all is said and done, it was a slow Q3.
Now rewind a bit. With dynamic planning, you have the freedom to focus more on the short term and the flexibility to do whatever it takes to move the needle closer and closer to your primary goals. Maybe that new software we found earlier in this article ended up looking like it could really improve your productivity. So in Q2 you implemented it. With that investment, your sales reps are able to dedicate far more time and energy to active selling. As a result, Q3 turns out to be a record-breaking quarter for your company.
Focus on the short-term while actively analyzing the results of your efforts. Be nimble and change what’s not working while also maximizing what is. Seek every opportunity to be better immediately. Don’t wait until your next planning meeting.
One advantage of a static annual plan is that it can serve as an unwavering playbook for your company. Everyone receives it at the beginning of the year and does their part to see it through to the end.
Not so with dynamic plans. Things change. Strategies take twists and turns. Priorities are rearranged. This can be frustrating on the individual level if it’s not all accompanied by strong communication. Everyone involved should communicate regularly about what they’re doing to move the company forward. As things evolve, people need to know. Communication must be strong and ongoing both within teams and among departments. This way, everyone can flex together help achieve common goals.
This doesn’t mean you must replace your lengthy annual static planning meetings with regular dynamic planning communication meetings. It simply means you must be responsible to keep others in-the-know about what you’re up to. Send emails. Mention it at team meetings. Do what works for you. Just don’t do it in secret.
Doing away with annual strategies and yearly detailed budgets doesn’t mean you can also do away with measurement. Quite the contrary, actually. It’s important to measure results of each initiative as you move through them. Take time each step of the way to evaluate what is working and what’s not. Understand why things worked out the way they did.
Fail fast. Maximize success. Be quick to act and hungry to improve.
Dynamic planning gives you and your team the freedom to be strategic more than once a year. Actually it encourages strategic thinking as often as possible. And with the world changing as quickly as it is today, we all need a little more freedom and encouragement to keep up with it. Don’t we?
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