Longer term business plans
August 24th, 2020
Weekly progression toward longer term achievements
We are encouraged to produce longer term business plans by orthodox thinking. I used to set business goals based on the long term and agonised over projections virtually all of which turned out to be useless. Any short-term accuracy was soon lost to external and internal factions. Five-year plans were rendered useless. I now refuse to detail long term business goals. It’s not that long-term goals are not important but are merely a guide-point.
The problem with long-term goals is two-fold. Firstly, most of us set unrealistic and overly optimistic objectives. Striving for something that’s so big, like a five-year goal, means it’s just too easy to become stressed that the short-term gains or misses are not contributing to our objectives in the way we might have hoped. The sheer amounts of variables, both internal and external, that can impact progress that we have to accommodate may mean we overlook short term gains or overly compensate for misses and that we place undue stress on ourselves and colleagues.
Secondly, it’s really hard to plan for the future. Taking what is impacting businesses at the moment, remote working, supply chain issues, loss of custom we are experiencing issues we never planned for. We may be coping but very few business plans had a section on the impact of a global pandemic.
Changing your plans
We just can’t plan in detail for the future, because how things will play out is too unclear. Unexpected events will occur, forcing us to make decisions and constantly re-evaluate decisions based on new data.
The Origin and Evolution of New Businesses, a book by Professor Amar V. Bhide posits that ninety-three per cent of all successful companies abandoned their original goals because they turned out to be wrong for the company. It is packed with examples of companies changing their plans based on shorter term adjustments for the better. The section on how Slack, the popular communication channel provider, which actually started out as a moderately successful video game producer but whose thorough examination of progress lead to an extreme pivot, is particularly instructive. Whilst few of us would operate completely this way it is a great example to highlight the point.
The furthest we look into the future with any detail is six months. Our five-year ‘plan’ is merely the destination. Short term we set weekly personal objectives. They contribute towards monthly, quarterly and year end key results all with the objective of driving the company in the direction it needs to be aiming to achieve the entire mission. Each week becomes a progress point. We report progress to each other via a simple fifteen-minute exercise meaning every team member is accountable and by achieving these bite sized priorities they are contributing to our overall progress. Weekly progress points are therefore short enough to reset or revise based on any new information; good or bad.
It’s about consistent accountability. Achieving small gains, we know we are producing demonstrable results.
We have experienced a marked effect on progress.
CEO, Octo Members Group
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