Time for Course Correction
Isn’t it time for a course correction?
No matter how brilliant your plans were at the start of the year, you are certainly off-course right now. Mid-year is the time for a course correction, and our best-run clients do it quarterly. If you’ve already done an update to your plans and strategy, you are probably on the right track now! But, if you haven’t done it yet, I’m going to give you a recipe for a great strategy and planning meeting.
You’ll need to schedule a time and place for your planning session, assign pre-work, prepare an agenda, lead the meeting, and follow-up on execution. Here are the details on each of the 5 steps:
1. The best place for this kind of meeting is off-site. You want the full attention of your leadership team, without the distractions of daily operations. If your team is very small and it’s hard to get away, you’ll need to use a weekend day or close for a day. Next, pick a location with the right atmosphere that fits your budget. Hotels and conference centers are easy, but also pricey and boring. Interesting alternatives are breather.com and airbnb.com, or a country club. We like to start with a dinner the night before to get people thinking before the main meeting. Sending folks off to sleep after a stimulating discussion is a great way to create deep thinking and begin the team alignment.
2. Assign pre-work to your team:
- Review your goals and priorities for the year, note what’s complete (green), in progress (yellow), or behind/stalled (red).
- Find 2 stories of something the company has done really well (like client/customer successes) and make some notes.
- Make a list of what you think the company should start, stop, and continue doing now.
- Make a list of the current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (the SWOT, you can also include major trends in the world).
- List out the top 3 issues that you think need to be dealt with now.
3. The following agenda works well, but it’s better if you can hire a facilitator (like a Gazelles coach):
- Host a dinner the night before, and share stories of things you did well as a company from your prep-work assignment.
- Continue your dinner conversation with an informal review of your SWOT. Go easy on the alcohol, this is not a night for heavy drinking.
- Finish the evening with sharing of the top issues people came up with. Send them to bed engaged and thinking.
- Begin your meeting the next morning with the intended outcome and a preview of the day.
- The first segment should be a review of core strategy: company values, purpose, brand promise, BHAG (10-30 goal, 3-5 year goals, SWOT and/or trends (if you did trends).
- Next, you’ll want to review people and functional roles. Do you have the right people, in the right seats?
- Now review the cash position and your business model. We use the Cash Conversion Cycle or the Power of One exercises to find new cash for growth.
- Begin execution planning for the next quarter (or the rest of the year) with a review of the YTD performance on goals and priorities. Let everyone share their own green/yellow/red and be wary of any who are “all green.”
- You should now be able to create 3-5 priorities for the company and align on the #1 priority. Your prep work began this thinking but your early ideas will have changed.
- Once you have the company priorities set, you’ll want to create a theme that captures the spirit, and assign a theme team to communicate it.
- Finish off your work by having everyone create (and share) personal priorities and action plans for the period ahead. What will they need to do to fulfill the company priorities?
- Complete your meeting with a little celebration to acknowledge the good work, and to allow for informal processing of all your thinking. This social time is important.
4. If you are leading this meeting yourself, it helps greatly to have people think and write before speaking, and to let everyone else speak before the CEO or founder does. Every group has vocal and dominant voices that can overwhelm great input from more quiet team members. As your meeting begins and progresses, watch for people that might be unsettled or unhappy. These people may be ready to leave the team, or have a deep concern that they haven’t been able to share. If you have hired a facilitator or coach, make sure that you are in alignment on the outcomes and process.
5. No matter how great the meeting was, your followup habits will determine it’s success in execution. We capture action items for followup in every meeting using a designated person and a WHO/WHAT/WHEN sheet. Then we put all our strategy and planning work into the AlignToday tool. We like team members to have a printed Vision Summary sheet afterwards in their work areas, and we believe on using a Daily Huddle to keep the team in sync.