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How To Action Your Business Plan Strategies

All this month, I have been offering new members access to my One Day Business Plan Program, at a discount of 20% from the usual price of $499. You can read more about the One Day Business Plan Program here, and if you want to take advantage of what the program offers you, you can use the discount coupon to obtain the 20% discount – but only until the end of July 2021.

To get the discount, purchase the Program and at checkout, enter the code ODBP0721.

At the same time over the last few weeks, I have been writing about how a Business Plan can help you grow your business and create order and organisation in the day to day strategies of your business.

Some people have written to me to ask how they can implement their strategies once they have written them out in their Business Plan, so let’s look at how to do this.

Looking at your strategies, you need a process to break them down into detailed step by step tactics to implement those strategies and achieve your goals.

But first, let’s take a step back to our starting point so that we fully understand what we have to do.

 

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In writing your Business Plan, you should have looked at your Vision – your ultimate long-term picture of what your business looks like when it is “successful” – and in doing so, described the critical success factors of that Vision.

You should also have identified your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – collectively showing you where your business is right now, warts and all.

This would then have allowed you to identify the differences between that vision and your current situation, or what we call “the gaps”. This would have led you to set goals that would, in the short-term up to the long-term, help you to attain the Vision.

Then, in order to achieve those goals, you should have listed a series of short-term, medium-term and long-term strategies to implement.

These strategies in your Business Plan should be big-picture strategies like “increase marketing to grow sales by 20%” or “implement a procedural system to reduce errors by 20%” or “open a new market in the next city by 2025” and so on.

So far, you have cascaded the description of your vision into focused goals, and from those goals into strategies to achieve those goals – a clear line of direction.

Having set meaningful goals and strategies, the next step is to ensure those strategies are actually carried out on a day-to-day, step-by-step, series of actions.

These tactical actions or steps you need to take to implement your strategies are by nature short-term because they are very detailed descriptions of almost daily actions. You need to have enough detailed information and predictable circumstances to make these detailed plans.

So, apart from any short-term (achievable in less than 12 months), you also need to examine medium and long-term strategies to identify any milestones you need to get to within 12 months. This provides you with an extended list of short-term goals that you can plan for in detail, for implementation over the next 12 months.

So now, you need to cascade those short-term strategies and milestone goals into detailed Action Plans that you can predictably carry out over the next 12 months.

Each short-term strategy and milestone goal needs to be projected into an Action Plan.

An Action Plan is just a list of the steps you need to take in the right order, so as to implement the strategy.

But when I say “just a list”, it’s so much more!

You can download our free Action Plan Template and use it to plan the detailed implementation of your strategies.

We recommend that Action Plans contain the following elements:

  • The Strategy, and objective or goal of the strategy
  • A list of detailed steps you need to take to implement the strategy, in chronological order
  • A description of the expected or required result of taking each step
  • Potentially a list of resources required to take the step
  • The person responsible for each step
  • The agreed deadline for completing each step

It is important to include the strategy being implemented as well as the objective or goal of implementing that strategy – it is important to keep the focus on how the big picture is being attended to rather than end up with a series of to-do lists. Without doing this, there is a danger that you will work incredibly hard, but not get anywhere near your original goal!

Obviously, the Action Plan, designed to organise and schedule what you have to do, should list all the detailed steps that need to be taken to implement the strategy. So each step has to be written in the right chronological order so that you go from 1 to 2 to 3 and so on, staying organised and on track.

However, your Action Plans need to also commit to action rather than being a mere to-do list, and to achieving or completing the objectives of those actions – in other words, not just action for action’s sake. So, every step that you list must also define the required result.

For example, you may have decided on a 12-month strategy of preparing and implementing a Marketing Plan in order to achieve the goal of increasing sales by 20%.

As you write your Action Plan to carry out this strategy, it may consist of the first few steps as follows:

  1. Survey customers to see what are their needs
  2. Prepare a 12-Month Marketing Plan
  3. Purchase resources to implement the Marketing Plan
  4. and so on

In order to ensure that you are not just taking action for action’s sake, each of those steps requires a result to be defined, for example:

  1. Survey customers to see what are their needs – Required Result: Shortlist of needs our Product must meet
  2. Prepare a 12-Month Marketing Plan – Required Result: A plan showing how we can increase sales by 20%
  3. Purchase resources to implement the Marketing Plan – Required Result: Resources identified in the Marketing Plan is available 

If you had just listed the action – you may indeed complete the action-step on time, but the marketing plan may be unrealistic or not achieve the result of a 20% increase in sales. So the result of the action is made clear and the person responsible has to focus on getting the result required.

The next element to include is a list of resources required in order to complete the action-step.

You need to set yourself up to succeed, so, if you do not have anyone capable of writing a Marketing Plan, you need to resource the above example action-step number 2. You need to find a marketing consultant who can write the Marketing Plan or learn how you can do it yourself.

Next, you also need to make sure that people commit to taking these actions so your Action Plan should include the name (or title) of the person mainly responsible for taking each action as well as an agreed deadline when that action should be completed.

You can download a free copy of our Action Plan template that includes all these items here.

Here is how you use our template to cascade your strategy into your Action Plan:

First, print a copy of the Action Plan template and to make sure that you stay focused on implementing the right strategy to achieve the right goal, write the Goal and the Strategy at the top.

Next, before you write all the steps to take in the template, it may be best to use a whiteboard or post-it notes to write down all the steps you think you need to take to implement the strategy. This just allows you to play with the order of the steps without making a mess on the paper. Once you have written all the steps, and pushed them around until they are in the right order, you can transcribe the list to the template.

Whether you write very detailed steps like “Step 1: Print X copies of the Y Report” and “Step 2: Distribute one copy each to A, B, and C” or more wholistic steps like “Y Report should be read by everyone” is up to you. Some teams require very detailed, direct instructions, while other teams are capable of more independent work.

The next step is to consider what is the required result of each step when it is completed, as we have discussed earlier.

As far as possible quantify the measurable result, or describe clearly what outcome is expected, for example, the cost in dollars, the time saved, that a document is distributed, that approval is given, and so on. This ensures that when an action is said to be completed, you can check that it is indeed fully completed.

Then nominate a “Leader” for each step.

In most cases, an entire Action Plan may only have one Leader, but there may be different action-steps that need someone else with the right capabilities to take leadership of completing that action-step.

What is the “Leader”?

When completing the action step, a number of people may be involved. However, only one person should be “The Leader” – the person co-ordinating and who is ultimately responsible that the action is completed and the right result achieved. Otherwise – well, too many cooks might spoil the broth!

Of course, when you do this you cannot just name someone (especially if they are not present!). In order to obtain commitment, you need to obtain buy-in so you need to discuss and negotiate the leadership task. You should also negotiate what time and resources they need to complete the action step as well as the necessary level of authority they can have.

As part of this discussion, you should also have arrived at a deadline when that task can be completed and you should record that date into your Action Plan.

Finally, review the Action Plan for completeness, that the steps are in the right order, and that the deadlines flow from each other (step 10 should not have to be completed before step 1!), and so on. The best way to do this is to ask yourself – “If I showed this to someone who was not involved, will they understand what has to be done and achieved, for what purpose, by whom, and by when?”

Following this process, you should be able to transfer broad strategic goals into day-to-day action lists.

Don’t forget to download your free Action Plan template.

Remember, the Practice of Planning is a cyclic system. As time passes, you need to return to the start of the cycle and review your business plan for the next year, and then start again.

If you haven’t even started planning here’s what you can do:

It’s time to plan the growth of your business!

See you soon!

 

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