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Forget Strategic Planning—Here's How to Get Better Results

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Guest: Sheldon Harris, Coach, CEO Coaching International

Episode in a Tweet: How to deliver an “Execution Plan” that runs circles around your dusty old strategic planning process.

Quick Background: Strategic planning is a relic from a bygone era. Today, the most successful companies create an “Execution Plan” that identifies then delivers on the company’s key objectives and initiatives for the year. In today’s episode, Sheldon Harris walks us through a specific process that your leadership team can use to implement your own “Execution Plan” and make your next 12 months the most profitable ever.

Key Insights on Execution Planning

1. Prior to your Execution Planning Meeting, have your senior leadership team answer a few important baseline questions.

In order to hit the ground running at your Execution Planning Meeting, it helps to have your leadership team answer the following questions prior to the meeting.

  • What went right over the past 12 months?
  • What went wrong over the past 12 months?
  • What did we learn over the past 12 months?
  • What are our greatest opportunities over the next 12 months?
  • What are our greatest challenges over the next 12 months?
  • Projecting forward 12 months from now, what would have to have happened over the previous 12 months to consider the year a huge success?

Have somebody collate these answers then have each meeting attendee review them before the Execution Planning Meeting. Start the Execution Planning Meeting by reviewing the results and you’ll ensure each participant is starting the meeting from the same base level of understanding.

2. Determine what “success” looks like in the year ahead.

At this point, we want to identify the specific and measurable outcomes that when achieved, will constitute big success. Typically, this covers things like revenue growth and profitability measures. It could also include other key metrics such as customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, or market share. One caveat is don’t get bogged down in this meeting trying to determine if 30% or 32% revenue growth is the right number. You want to be directionally correct in this meeting and you can fine-tune the exact numbers during a subsequent budgeting process if needed.

3. Develop your key initiatives by starting with “divergent” thinking before moving on to “convergent” thinking.

Once you know your desired outcomes for the year, it’s time to develop the key initiatives necessary to achieve them. Start by listing all the things you “could” do over the next year (the divergent thinking) then through a process of elimination, zero-in on the specific things you “should” do (the convergent thinking). When you’re finished with this step, you should end up with about 5 or so initiatives that when executed, will lead to achieving your desired outcomes for the year. And by the way, these 5 initiatives should be ranked from 1 to 5 in terms of priority.

4. Shared ownership is no ownership.

Now that you’ve identified your key initiatives, it’s time to determine who “owns” that initiative and get very specific about how it will be measured and achieved. For each initiative, break into small groups and complete the following.
Determine the one person who “owns” it.
Develop a clear statement of what successfully achieving the initiative looks like.
Determine the quarterly benchmarks that show progress in achieving the initiative.
Identify what organizational resources are necessary to achieve the initiative.

Once the above have been determined, have each initiative owner take a few moments and share their vision of success for the initiative with the rest of the meeting attendees.

By turning the strategic planning process into an Execution Planning Process, you’ll get a much better return on your executives’ time as well as your invested capital.

Ultimately, what matters is getting things done, profitably. Strategic planning is nice and fun but we have to turn strategies into profitable action. The Execution Planning Process we outlined in the podcast forces you to focus on developing key initiatives, that are linked to major business objectives, and are backed by a key executive who owns that initiative and is fully empowered and responsible for getting it done. By implementing this process year after year, you’ll set your company on a results-oriented course that makes big things happen.

Top Takeaways

Be extremely clear on what “success” looks like for your company. By rigorously zeroing-in on what success looks like for your company, you can do a better job of determining the specific initiatives necessary to make it happen.

Start with what you “could” do before getting to what you “should” do. Examine a wide range of possible initiatives that could lead to hitting your key outcomes before being ruthless in cutting the pretenders and keeping the few initiatives that have a high probability of hitting the target.

You must be extremely clear on “who is going to do what by when.” If an Execution Planning Meeting fails, it’s usually because there wasn’t enough clarity on who had to do what to drive the desired outcomes. Don’t leave the meeting unless this is crystal clear.

About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average revenue CAGR of 31% (2.6X the U.S. average) and an average EBITDA CAGR of 52.3% (more than 5X the U.S. average).

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