How Do You Plan?

Today’s blog is not specifically about a telecom topic, but is something that affects every one of my clients. Today I ask the question: how do you plan for the future of your business? I ask this question because it’s something I see many of my clients struggle with.

What do I mean by planning? To me it means having a process for identifying and setting goals and then having a process for implementing the goals. Goals can be anything, but most of the goals that my clients identify are either to fix existing problems or else to implement something new in their broadband business.

I know this is a problem for many broadband companies because I see them facing the same problems year after year or I see them taking a really long time to implement a new product or build into a new market. I have many clients that are frustrated by this.

It’s usually fairly easy to diagnosis the reasons why plans don’t get implemented. One of the major reasons that plans go awry is that companies get wrapped up in the day-to-day operation of the business and taking the time to make planned changes slips to the bottom of the priority list. I also often see that companies try to tackle too many changes at the same time. I have clients who hold an annual strategy session and then try to implement a dozen changes in the company. This rarely works and half of the changes fall to the floor and end up on the to-do list the following year. And for some companies, plans don’t get implemented because the company doesn’t have any real planning process and good ideas just hang in the air.

I will be the first to tell you that planning is hard. I am sometimes as guilty of not taking the time to plan as my clients and it’s easy to fall into the trap of reacting to fires every day rather than taking the time to plan for the future. But I have a few clients who are really good at the planning process, and interestingly. In observing companies who are good at planning, I notice the following similarities:

  • The planning process is formal. There are scheduled planning sessions that are a top priority for the company. There are planning or implementation meetings held regularly to help set goals and then to make sure that the goals are being met.
  • The planning process is mandatory. I’ve seen companies set planning meetings only to have half of the planned attendees beg off to take care of daily fires. If planning is not mandatory then the planning process tends to fizzle out over time.
  • It includes the whole company. This is not just something that the top few guys in a company should do. Since it generally takes all parts of the company to implement new ideas or to fix problems, then every group ought to have some input to the process. The top people night have the biggest role in choosing the direction of the business, but if the whole company doesn’t feel vested in the process then plans tend to slip in importance to the daily work routine.
  • Goals are published. Everybody in the company ought to know what the short and long-term goals are, and they should understand their role in implementing solutions.
  • The process needs to be organized. Companies that are good at planning keep a running list of tasks they want to accomplish. This is essentially a company to-do list. They list will include both major and minor goals. A major goal might be something like entering a new market or implementing a new product. Minor goals might include things like developing a needed new management report or finding a way to streamline a specific process.
  • Plan for successes. The best way to keep a formal planning process going is by getting wins. Just like it feels good to cross something off your personal to-do list, a company benefits organization-wide if there are constant small wins by crossing things off the company to-do list. This means setting quarterly goals for minor tasks along with longer time frames for major tasks.

As a matter of disclosure, this blog is not intended to drum up work. While I often help companies set goals and priorities, our firm does not offer a formal product for establishing a planning process. There are plenty of firms I know who offer this service and I’d be glad to make a recommendation. I’ve seen that bringing in an outsider to help create a formal process can be money well spent. If your company struggles with setting and implementing goals then seeking help might be one of the best investments you can make – it’s really investing in yourself.