Here we have it, the final instalment of our four part mini series on building, delivering and working through an effective annual plan. If you haven’t read the previous instalments, be sure to look through the below posts also. We think you will find them very useful.
The final stage of any annual plan, is of course execution. One would think that this would be the simplest step of all, but actually, from my experience, it proves to be one of the most challenging. Why? Well firstly, of course, plans can change. Secondly, it can become fatiguing over time to follow the plan document. The biggest reason though? People just stop talking about it. Here’s how to make it a living, working document that will deliver the results you set out to achieve.
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We have spoken previously in this mini-series about creating buy in as a ground swell from the bottom. Well now you have that buy-in, its important to ensure the team know of who is accountable. Most importantly within this, is how they can contribute. One of the simplest and most used examples of this is in sales. Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) are usually very easy to set for sales people. Generally including a material margin metric, a growth metric and a retention metric. Tidy. How do you link annual planning results to individuals outside of this area?
This is such an easy way to create buy-in, make it their target for the year. We haven’t yet covered annual reviews, and half year reviews on this website and how we feel is the best way to conduct them. However, most businesses have some form of structure to deliver this already. Always ensure your goals are SMART goals. What is a SMART goal I hear you ask?
When making targets, ensure that the SMART rules are followed:
Don’t say to a customer service call handler that their target is to increase customer service, what does that mean, how is that specific. Relate it to the annual plan. An example may be that customer retention is poor, so customer service needs to be improved, that’s fine. Make it more specific though in the target. A better way to do this would be to “Increase customer satisfaction levels to customers who have contacted with a complaint.” It’s only a minor change, but links to the plan and is much more specific.
How can we expect a staff member to know if they have been successful if we don’t give them any metrics? This may mean putting new measures in place, but trust me, you will get a better feel for your business by doing so. In the above example, a customer survey on a number of calls a day would be an excellent way to review customer service. You can also start to filter it by customers with complaints. Make a target measurable, something along the lines of “Increasing the level of “Very Satisfied” resolutions by X%”
Linking nicely to the above, of course, make the target achievable. If you currently have 1% of respondents stating that they are very satisfied, don’t expect to be at 85% at the end of the year. Culture change takes time. Instead set it at a reasonable level, it can always be revised.
Please please make it relevant to the staff member. If you have a customer service team but you have been tasked with reducing costs of goods purchased by 30% as that’s also in your department, there is no use in trying to get that team to support with it. Really. Keep the goal relevant and manageable.
Generally I would be looking to set some tasks over a year and some over a shorter period. For example, if you have a process redesign project, and you should every year have at least one, that can be set to be completed in 3 months. Ensure the staff member knows when their target is due to be delivered.
Okay sure, that is a recycling image, but it makes a good point. Constantly review and recycle the message of the annual plan. This can be formally through specific meetings, or informally with one to one’s. If you don’t recycle the message, it won’t cut through. You may be bored of hearing it, because you live and breath it, but your team probably aren’t.
Personally, I liked to have individual one on ones with my team monthly on the annual plan progress, getting them to do the same with their teams below them too. Then have a formal AP meeting once a quarter to tie everyone back in to message. Keeping the message alive.
I have to say this as I have seen it so often when people don’t do it. Two things are so important.
Success should be praised, we would expect it when we do well and our teams would want to see it from you also. It doesn’t take too long to give people a well done when it is deserved. If you have gone this far to make people buy-in to the plan, take the time to thank them for achieving it.
Be Firm on Failure
On the other side of the coin, if failure has occurred and it is truly down the individual, be firm, but fair on it. It is easy to set sliding standards on not achieving targets and creates the wrong impression around expectations.
My advice also, praise in public and align behind closed doors.
In an ever changing business environment, plans and goals can change. Be adaptable with them. Remember though, that to create a truly living document, when something changes, we must communicate it and reflect it in our actions. That means going through and realigning all of the above. Depending on the scale of the change that may be with an individual, a group, a team or the entire business. You will have to judge that on the situation. What is the most important thing though is when the strategy does change, it is communicated and people are realigned accordingly.
Lastly, review one last time somewhere in quarter four, set the foundations for next years annual plan as you will be on that journey again, but take time to go through the success of this year. Remember, we are selling the annual plan process and what better way to do it, other than showing people it really works.
We hoped you have enjoyed this mini-series, if you have any comments, please don’t hesitate to leave them below, and good luck in your annual planning journey.