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July 01, 2009

Planning in the Face of Uncertainty

I think I met Jana Matthews about ten years ago when she invited me to speak on a panel about entrepreneurship.  Not only did she become a great friend, but because of that day, I met another great friend.  I can count on one hand the number of days where I met two life-long friends in one day, and I'm very grateful for it.

Jana consults with CEOs and management teams on how to grow their companies.  Actually I think that the companies are often already growing, but they are either out of control or not a nice place to work.  Jana knows how to combine good business management with culture and values, and I know many entrepreneurs and their employees have benefited from Jana and her team's good work.

I subscribe to an email newsletter that Jana sends out occasionally, and I also get to watch her webcasts sometimes.  You can sign up too right here, and you can see a nice library of ideas and support for entrepreneurs at her websiteby clicking on the Library tab.

Here's a sample from the latest JanaMail - it's a good reminder of what we need to be doing as entrepreneurs and leaders:

As we continue to fight through challenging times, I'm sharing some of my ideas for succeeding in the current economic environment. One of the best ways to stay strong is by making your strategic plan flexible and responsive to changing market conditions.

Planning is essential in any situation for a growing company, but it's especially true during these times of uncertainty. When the future is hard to forecast, you should continue to set growth-minded long-term goals and strategies, but you should develop your detailed, tactical plans to support those goals two quarters at a time.

Focus Hard On Today, and Stay Flexible For Tomorrow
For example, if you were starting today, think through where you'd like to be at the end of the next 12 months, then plan Q3 2009 in great detail and Q4 with somewhat less detail. The important thing is to commit to a ongoing monitoring, tracking, and adjusting of the plan. This commitment is true even in good times, but it helps you stay responsive in bad times.

A Plan... and a Process
You aren't simply creating a plan, you are building a planning process. Conduct weekly tactical meetings to monitor results and identify exceptions early. Hold monthly strategy sessions to ensure your goals are on track with the marketplace. And once a quarter, insist on a rigorous progress review on the current plan. At this meeting, you would also adjust and firm up the Q4 plan - and begin planning Q1 2010.

Communicate and Motivate
Remember, as a leader, one of your greatest charges is to communicate with your employees - and the plan is a big part of your message. Employees will stay motivated when they hear that "This week we closed the highest number of leads in the history of the company," but they will also respond and rally when you say "We are falling short of our target for the quarter, but if everyone can bring in two more leads per week, we'll get back on track."

As Dick Schultz, founder of Best Buy once told me, "The big difference between the pros and the amateurs is that the pros keep score."

Check out Jana's website here

July 1, 2009 in Entrepreneur Essays | Permalink


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