All airplanes file flight plans before they take-off. The flight plans capture the destination, routes, alternative airports in case of emergency, critical information like aircraft capabilities, number of passengers and pilot details. The plans are important because when there is an emergency, such as when bad weather happens, alternatives are already thought through. Or if control tower loses contact with the plane, rescues know where to start looking. These plans enable constant monitoring between the plane and the control tower until it safely reaches its destination.
Would you fly in a plane without a flight plan?
Or would you trust a pilot who doesn’t check with the control tower regularly?
Now, are you running a business without a plan or a system to ensure that the plan is monitored?
As we come close to the half-year mark, I just conducted the second quarter review with our company. The review was timely as it helped us to re-focus on our long-term goals, and adjust our current plans to align again with the growth plans of our company. It was helpful that we had a full-day, off-site planning session to take us away from the day to day issues and focus on re-alignment.
Re-alignment – what a difficult thing to do.
It is difficult because it is so human to get caught up in the fire-fighting, and forget how the daily stuff we do is supposed to build towards the overall purpose and plan of the company. So how do we hedge against the distractions of running a business and stay focus on the things that are important? We can do this by putting in place a Meeting Rhythm. Like music, the rhythm keeps things going smoothly. It is a disciplined process that needs to be instilled. The organisation’s rhythm is broken into the Annual, the Quarterly, the Monthly, the Weekly and the Daily, but since we are at the Quarterly mark, let’s focus on how to run a good quarterly review that captures the important things that need to be done. I will share how I ran the quarterly planning session below:
- Start with a review of the overarching trends – is your business goals and plans going against or along the prevailing macro trends? In the past, we look at trends only during annual planning sessions, but trends change so rapidly now I believe we should always keep an eye on it.
- Ask the question ‘Where do we play?’ This question is from the book Playing to Win by AG Lafely and Roger Martin. This is a critical question that will help you to refocus what are the current areas you are putting your bets on. Re-examine this in the light of the trends. Do you know where you should concentrate your business resources on? Or are you just shooting in the dark?
- Ask the question ‘How do we win (in where we play)?’ Again another question from the book Playing to Win. It is really a good book on strategy. How do we win examines if we have a few aces up our sleeves to help us get to where we want to go. Are these aces working? Are you using these aces? How do we do them better? If the aces are not working, do you have a Plan B?
- Is there an opportunity or threat you need to deal with in the next quarter? This opportunity or threat could pop up in ‘Where do we play’ and ‘How do we win?’ Or in the trends.
- Lastly, and very importantly, are we constantly working on core competencies that will enable us to win? What is one core competency we need to improve or build to answer points 2 and 3?
These 5 steps are akin to a pilot checking prevailing winds, weather conditions ahead of his flight path, and evaluating if his aircraft has the means to get to where it needs to go viz-a-viz the conditions he is facing. He not only reviews the conditions, he also makes alternative plans.
You are the captain of your company, and many people, your staff and your clients depend on you. Do you have a flight plan? Are you reviewing it frequently enough so that you don’t get any surprises? And if you are reviewing it, are you asking the right questions that will give you the best answers?
I hope this article helps. Have a fruitful planning for Q2!