One of the biggest challenges for company leaders, managers, and business owners is keeping their team on track and keeping them motivated during their annual planning process. In most cases two sides form: One that wants immediate action and another that needs more sufficient data before driving a decision. It’s nearly July and we’re almost halfway through the year. Before approaching another fiscal year, you’ll have two sides that may affect or even eventually cause a downturn of your annual decision-making, if you won’t be able to get the whole team into developing and coordinating one detailed list of responsibilities and events that the team needs to do correctly, as well as the budget involved to realize the objectives in the strategic plan.
It is highly important for any business, no matter what size, to establish an annual operations plan corresponding to the fiscal year for every major organizational unit. An operation plan ensures that all employees know their responsibilities and are able to work hand in hand with fellow employees, combining their efforts to help finish a task. Furthermore, it also allows managers to make a progress check or monitor the progress of the plan (or lack thereof) to decide for themselves whether or not it will finish on the time set. The reason why this is very important is because the project could need funding ahead of time so therefore, they will be able to request for funding procurement ahead of time.
Most organizations, especially large corporations, are familiar with the concept of strategic plans mapping out a three to five year period’s worth of strategy with the goal of establishing a long-term vision for stability, but however adequate the strategic plans are, with these same organizations lacking operations plans, they would have difficulty seeing the fulfillment of their long-term visions and goals, and at the end of the day, your long-term business goals are the ones that really matters.
An operations plan in short and simple terms maps out the who, what, where and how of your daily operations which should be applied for the whole duration of the next fiscal year, with the purpose of defining how to go about the allocation of the human, financial and physical resources in order to achieve short term goals supporting broader company strategies.
On a regular or day to day basis, your operations plan will be answering questions like these:
Simply put, your operations plan is a guide for the operations of your organization, designed to make sure that your goals will be accomplished. It’s like an important piece of a puzzle for any team that has the drive to focus on being goal-oriented. How then can you develop an annual operations plan that’s strong enough to pull the business forward for the upcoming fiscal year?
Your operations plan is ultimately your tool for your strategic plan to be carried out. This is why it is important o ensure that you already have a strong strategic plan in place and that every member of the team and everyone else involved understands it. Without the strategic plan as a guide, developing an operations plan will seem like trying to plan a vacation without really knowing where to go. The moment you fail to identify how a certain element or part of your operations plan helps you achieve an objective or strategy, then it should be left out of your plan.
Right now, what is the business’ priority?
When it comes to operations plans, there’s a general rule. The more complex they are, the lesser the chances that the team will be successful in trying to follow them.
So that you can avoid ending up with a tangled plan, focus on the goals that you think truly matters. Before you even put your focus down to writing you operations plan, break down your strategic plan into one year’s worth of objectives, after which you can determine the important initiatives that could help you reach those goals. They might be one, some or all of the following:
Along with many other possibilities, depending on what the company can manage to allocate. Pick between three and five initiatives that will encourage success for your long term goals then define the type of performance metrics that will help you in measuring the plan’s overall progress. These are your key performance indicators or KPIs which will be part of your most powerful weapons for success.
3) Use leading instead of lagging indicators.
You have to select the right KPIs as they will be an important factor in the success of your annual operations plan. The most effective metrics are obviously the main indicators such as measures showing you what to expect in the future and would allow you to adjust in due course. On the other hand, lagging indicators would be showing you how short you are on progress when it’s already too late.
If for example, you’re aiming to reach a certain threshold in sales, calls-per-day might work as a strong leading indicator. You may be able to come up with the appropriate figures based on your past experience regarding the number of calls it would take on average to complete a sale. Doing this will thus allow you to determine whether or not you’ll be able to meet your sales goals. If measuring sales is all you want however, you wouldn’t know where you are as to your goals and projections until you’re already there.
4) Don’t develop your KPIs in a vacuum.
Your chosen KPIs will serve as the guide of everyone who works in your organization for the following year. Bearing that in mind, you should be able to formulate various perspectives and inputs within your team as you create those KPIs. If you have an organization, business or company made up of no more than fifteen people, holding an annual planning session where everyone’s efforts to develop the KPIs is collaborated for the upcoming year. In the case of larger organizations, the participation of an annual planning session may just be restricted to leadership or management teams. Either way, the important thing is to include a variety of perspectives during the planning process but not at the expense of effective decision-making.
5) Communication is paramount.
In every planning process, an organization should be able to share and communicate suggestions, budget appropriation, and core decisions across the entire team. At the start of the year, the company should have time set for sharing and discussing KPIs with everyone, because it’s very important for everybody to understand why you have chosen certain metrics over the rest, why they’re necessary, how they would help reach the organization in its hopes to achieve its goals for the year and the role that each individual would play to work towards success.
The importance of communication in any phase of decision-making processes cannot be overstated. You can hold meetings regularly: once a week would be ideal, in communicating the organizational progress of your KPIs and discuss issues that may have been detected. Whether it would be through meeting, company forums, dashboards or any other means, members of the team should be able to monitor and track their individual progress, especially performance on a weekly basis, so that they’ll know what to work on.
Tackling a company’s priorities regarding performance and how to measure it so that it would be possible to reach business goals for the coming year, isn’t easy. But with a strong annual operations plan being established, the company could achieve the same goals that will drive your strategies forward.
With a strong operations plan in place, your organization should have everything you need to tackle your priorities successfully and ultimately achieve the goals that will drive your strategic vision.