If you don’t know where you’re going you’ll end up somewhere else – Yogi Berra
Startups and small enterprises wanting to be agile, often fail to define where it is they want to go. One of the reasons is that “things are changing so quickly and we need to change with them”. While it is true that the markets change much faster than in the past, it is still important to establish where you want to go. If not, you will be bounced around by the markets and never go anywhere.
To start determine where you want to go. Research into what problem the market(s) needs solved and how you are could solve it (them). Select the one that meets you company needs (financial, geographical, capabilities and interest).
Next, determine your plan on how to get to the destination. The plan will include assumptions, it is critical to write down your assumptions, you will not remember them later plus your team will see why decision were made and can help either validate or refute the assumptions early in the planning or execution phases.
When you know your destination and how you are getting there, when the markets do change (and they will), you are then able to assess the new information and then make the required change to the destination or the plan.
Now that you have your destination and plan to get there, write it down and share it with the team. Studies show that when written down and shared plans are more likely to be executed. In addition, your written plan will be used by the team to resolve issues/conflicts, and determine why and when and what changes are necessary.
Everyone on the team
Sharing the plan with the entire team shows where you are taking the team and why. It allows each team member know where they fit into the success of the organization. This is amplified when changes to the plan are necessary, and they will be. People generally do not like change, and part of that discomfort is because they do not have the information on why the change is necessary.
With the plan in hand, the sales team knows what they are selling and to whom. Not just the product as it currently exists, but the product as it is planned to exist. In addition, the sales team will know what they are NOT selling. For SME’s this is important, especially when getting new customers and sales are important. When what you are selling is not well defined, your sales team will spend time chasing sales that you do not want, or can support or are not in the best interest of the company.
The marketing team needs the plan for two important reasons. The first is to ensure the efforts made to market your product and company match what the organization is working to deliver. The second it to monitor the market place and flag issues in the landscape, while gathering additional information on the assumptions to either validate or in-validate them and allow the company to make the required changes.
With a well define plan, the product team is able to work through the design and development of the product, ensuring the right products/features are created. It allows the team to ensure they have the right skills sets, or add them, to deliver on the plan. The plan is there to resolve potential conflicts, as both the destination and plan for getting there are defined.
With the destination and plan, for getting there defined it gives you the information needed to get funding. Investors need to know you have thought through both your destination and plan for getting there.
You put together an advisory board to help you with your company. With your plan, they will know where they can provide the best support. They can also help you ensure you assumptions are valid or not, as well as provide additional information to help you succeed as you follow the laid out path to your destination.
You and your management team
You have established your destination; and how you are going to get there; you have shared the plan with your team. So now, you can sit back and wait for success. WRONG!
Your plan allows you and your team to manage the trip. You will need to ensure the destination and plan are still valid. Using your corporate Key Performance Indicators your will determine you are on track. KPI’s are reviewed regularly (monthly), so that problem trends can be found before problems become so great you will need extraordinary efforts to correct.
On a regular interval, assess your assumptions (included in your plan) and either validate they are still good. If any of the assumptions have been determined not now be invalid, you can determine if the new information requires a change to either the plan or the destination. This same review of the market and any changes that have occurred over the period from the last review should happen at the same time.
With your destination established, your plan on how to get there in the hands of your team, you are well positioned to manage your company now and into the future, arriving at the destination of your choosing.
Please feel free to share and comment.
Marni McVicar is an interim executive supporting companies in operations management and getting products from concept through design and into the customers’ hands.
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