Where to start when you’re cleaning up a planning & reporting framework

I recently received some questions from a client who is a new CEO in his organization, and is in the process of clarifying strategic direction for their organization and bringing in more active and modern planning and reporting frameworks. This can be an overwhelming experience, but think it through and do one thing at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your planning framework.

I believe when implementing new direction, there are three major areas to address:

1) Make the plan operational

When rolling out direction to employees, a good rule of thumb is to involve more of your people the more operational you get. The tends to increase overall commitment to and understanding of the plan. The bottom line is that you have to get this done, or the plan will not hit the ground. Year 1 for any new process is always challenging so err on the side of simplicity when starting off. Putting too many hoops in front of people can result in lower commitment to the process.

2) Create a forum to regularly dicuss progress

This is one of the greatest simple tools to increase accountability and focus on the plan. Consistently come back to the plan and discuss progress as well as looking aheead to the next key activities. Have the lead for each activity give a verbal update for progress, discuss challenges, and what’s coming up next. This will keep everyone accountable, keep the focus on the plans and increase everyone’s knowledge as to what is happening. The other benefit is that you will have plenty of course-correction time prior to the less frequent reporting that goes further up the management chain.

3) Update your reporting system

Begin by asking yourself what you want your board, executive, management and teams focusing on. Then, look at your reporting systems. If you want a strategic company, you need to maintain a focus at all levels on issues that are strategic to the company. The would be little point in rolling out a strategic planning system that measures issues and metrics not strategic to the company.

Growth imperatives

Recently, I discovered what I believe to be a potential trap in balanced scorecard implementation. I’m not sure if it results from the initial implementation, or something that can just result as time passes but here it is:

Scorecards describe the whole direction, both short and long-term and in most cases with great specificity. Because the direction is descibed in such great detail, there is a risk that high priority business and market growth initiatives or priorities get lost in a long list. For this reason, in some cases I have started to implement what I call Growth Imperatives, which provide some context to the remainder of the strategy and business objectives. It provides a very clear picture of “What are our strategies really all about this year?”

To many of you, this will sound like Strategic Intents, but they are significantly more specific because they also include success statements. This helps to focus an organization on the highest level outcomes. Integrate the success statements into the measures within the appropriate focus areas and it will all add up without duplication. I believe the greatest benefit is that for organizations and groups which are market-focused that it creates an external context for the rest of the objectives and priorities within their scorecard.

If you’re lacking a market focus for your scorecard, kick-start the shift in focus by specifying the growth imperatives and let me know what benefits you derived.

Linking marketing strategies to business objectives

Many of the clients I consult with struggle with the connections between the various components of their strategic framework. One that I’d like to focus specifically on is the connection between your marketing strategies and your business growth objectives.

I’ll start off by saying this:

Marketing strategies are instrinsically linked to the business growth objectives of the organization. They are driven by the growth objectives and MUST be connected in a subordinate manner. Because of this, marketing strategies CANNOT be built in isolation of the growth objectives. I’ve decided to speak only about the strategic levels of this issue here, but sufficed to say that this topic also trails off into the operational layers as well.

Marketing strategies are to address the following:

1) How are we going to maintain and enhance our competitive advantage?
2) How are we going to maintain a consistent operational delivery on our brand promise?

For many managers, marketing seems like a job that should be tackled by the “creative types.” Utilize the guidance of your internal marketing horsepower, but demand the process be driven by the business growth objectives. If your marketing folks are quote even 3 of the “5 P’s of marketing” without at least once using the words “business objective” you dont’ have all the right people in the room.

Marketing is the activity of getting your product to the market. Before you do that, make sure you know what you’re trying to accomplish in the market. Leaving this detail behind strips your organization of the ability to strategically control it’s brand.

So, next time they show you the new ad spot, ask this question and see what comes back: “Explain for me how this ad positively impacts the business growth and brand development objectives of the organization?” Marketers have a responsibility to connect these two, and without a direct objective … it’s just a pretty ad.