The Plan

Business PlanIts that time of the year. For some, it is wrapped up. For others, it is still in the works. The Plan. It is the thing that consumes enormous amounts of time in many organizations, with no real return for the effort put in. In others, there is absolutely no thought at all. In too few, it is a thoughtful, efficient process that gives the organization the right level of focus on achieving key objectives in the coming year.

Over the years, my thinking on the most effective approach to planning has shifted away from the annual plan in favor of a five-quarter rolling forecast. By keeping an eye on the markets and continuing to evolve based on new information, the organization is utilizing the best forward looking information (and history) to achieve objectives. That doesn’t mean flopping around in the wind. It means executing against long range objectives based on current market conditions. How does your organization approach planning? Are you as effective as you can be?

What are you missing by not looking around?

what are you missing?What a stunning day! The rain finally disappeared after what seemed like an eternity. The sky was bright blue and the rain left behind a stunning green landscape. How could I not take my dog out for a long walk on a day like today? We wandered through the WSU Vancouver campus. The brick buildings framed a snow capped Mt. St. Helens in the distance. Mt. Hood framed by tall trees and rolling grass was stunning from the other end. It was surprising to see how many people were missing the stunning sight by focusing on their phones. For me, it was the highlight of the day. I loved the sights and my wandering mind came up with a number of ideas for my business.

This type of situation happens frequently in business. People become so focused on the task of the moment and miss the larger picture around, or don’t have space to think and innovate. How are you creating an environment in your business where people have the time to see the larger picture and innovate?

You Said What?

you said what?We were in a meeting discussing a critical issue. It was clearly a turning point. Or was it? After a lengthy discussion, the meeting wrapped up. It was clear to me that we were headed a new direction. Curious what my counterpart thought, I asked his perspective. His perspective was no change, things would continue on the same path. So, how could we walk away with such different take aways from the same meeting? The challenge is people filter based on their experiences and expectations, assumptions and hopes. Without a clear wrap up to a conversation, it is easy to walk away with different perspectives on what is next. As a result, actions may not align with what was expected, creating confusion down the line. How do you wrap up meetings to create clarity for the path forward?

Showing Up

showing upYears ago, a conversation grew around getting involved in an industry association. Money had been going out the door for years with no seeming return. After a few calls and discussions, the value provided was quite high. The problem was, people had changed in the company I worked for, connections were lost, and no one was showing up. Once we got involved – and started showing up – the relationship grew and blossomed. There was huge value involved on both sides. But, it took a bit of showing up on both sides to develop the relationship and see the importance on both ends.

Whether it is in business or in life, showing up is critical to forming and maintaining relationships. It involves being present – not just physically, but intellectually. In fact, you don’t always need to be physically present as long as a connection is maintained in a way that satisfies all parties. How are you showing up?

Death by A Thousand Cuts

Change Is A Good Thing ConceptA friend was recounting a story they had read recently. It was a study about a couple of kids who set up a lemonade stand with discount pricing to attract customers. Lemonade for $1. However, everything was priced individually. The cup, the straw, the lemonade, the ice, the umbrella, etc. The customer didn’t know about the pricing until the total was provided, then was shocked at the $20 glass of lemonade. The customer had no idea that for each yes, the bill would skyrocket. By the end, it was like death by a thousand cuts and the potential customer would walk away because it was just too much.

This type of situation occurs regularly in business when change is being made. Changes and requirements keep coming – so much so, that the mountain gets so high and people get overwhelmed and walk away. The trick is to make the bulk of the changes quickly and move into the new normal, avoiding death by a thousand cuts. How do you avoid death by a thousand cuts in your organization?

Are Your Efforts Getting Noticed?

make a differenceAfter a recent meeting, I was coming around the bend to visit a social/athletic club in town when I saw a large group of volunteers from the club picking up trash to keep the neighborhood clean. The group wears red vests and does volunteer work regularly in the community – its all part of being a good neighbor. I asked one of the folks who was volunteering if they thought people in the community know about this effort. He shrugged his shoulders said “not sure” and walked off.

It’s amazing how many people put effort into making the experience of others better with the efforts many times going unnoticed. Sometimes it is because it is the wrong effort and value isn’t being recognized. Other times people just don’t know it is going on. Are your efforts getting the results you expected?

 

The Song Remembers When

Remember whenMore than 20 years ago, Trisha Yearwood had a popular song that focused on how songs can take you back to a moment in time. I’ve been thinking about it over the last few weeks as situations or phrases have triggered conversations of the past. A chat with a mentor, a key risk in a company that had a big lesson learned and approaches to business that ebb and flow depending upon the time. And while Trisha’s song was about a relationship, the message can be broadly applied – certain situations can quickly take you back in time.

The thing is, many times memories reside with a person. They become embedded in the fabric of their experiences and help shape them into who they are. The challenge in a business context is taking those learnings and embedding them in the fabric of the organization so the business becomes a learning organization and can take those prior experiences and apply them to similar situations today. Companies that do this well create a culture that allows for quick decision-making, but has these experiences in mind. They stay away from heavy bureaucracy and cumbersome processes. How have you created a learning culture in your organization?

Trust, but Verify

trust but verifyThe topic of trust comes up regularly in conversations, usually by someone who feels they don’t have enough latitude or autonomy in their job. Many times the person feels micromanaged. And in speaking with their supervisor, the perspective is the person wants complete autonomy without having to report status of their work. Both are equally valid perspectives. The challenge is finding the balance where both parties feel their needs are being met.

When thinking about this topic, a quick search of the internet revealed the quote was regularly attributed to Reagan when dealing with the Russians during the cold war. Relations at work shouldn’t be as tense as US relations with Russia during the cold war. Finding common ground through conversations about what each person needs and the importance of having free flowing information to manage the business can be enlightening. How do you trust, but verify?

Is finance to blame when a business struggles?

finance problemsWalking around a business can tell you a lot. Are people focused and moving with a sense of urgency? How is the safety record? Are a lot of people getting hurt? Are there clear goals and objectives posted on the walls? Do the operations look efficient or are there a lot of extra steps that don’t seem value added? You don’t have to have a sheet of paper with numbers to know. A strong management team will know if the business is operating at its potential or not.

So, when you hear that the reason a company is doing poorly is because the finance team isn’t functioning properly, it’s time to take out the BS detector and start challenging the excuses.

Yes, finance has a critical role in the success or failure of a company. If it is not functioning well, there are certainly a number of issues being missed in the company. But a poorly run finance department is not the root cause of a business’ problems. Rather, it is a symptom. So when you hear this commentary, dig deeper and find out what is really going on. Bigger problems lie underneath.

Do you have the right mindset?

do you have the right mindset?I love Zumba. People get together to dance, have a great time and get a fantastic workout. But what always intrigues me is the number of folks I hear saying they don’t go because they aren’t a good dancer, are not in good enough shape, etc. In other words, I can’t do it (or don’t want to do it) for a variety of reasons. The irony is the age range is quite wide with people into their 70’s, all body shapes and all levels of fitness and ability to dance. The difference is the people in the room have decided that they are going to have a great time and get a fantastic workout, no matter their age, physical condition or dance abilities. They decided to go in with the mindset of “I can.”

This mindset pervades every area of life, including how work is approached. There are many sayings such as “attitude determines altitude.” And it’s true. I’ve seen people accomplish great things with the mindset of “I can.” How is your mindset? Are you limiting your potential or opening yourself to the potential of having an “I can” mindset?