“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
Mike Tyson World champion boxer
Consultants tell us that "if we fail to plan, we plan to fail" and we are pre-destined to wander the world in a directionless fug of confusion.
Traditionally, the structured planning approach, identifies a vision, goals and key priorities, aligns roles and responsibilities, and articulates targets, with wider communicating to the key staff. It is a well worn path that has lasted the test of time and earnt many a consultant a healthy crust. However, this approach has 4 key weaknesses which have been exposed in the modern post-recession world:
1. Out of date before it's finished. We used to say that the next competitor threat would take only 6 months to develop. It may have been true then but now with the power of social media to reach global markets within hours, 6 weeks is a more realistic timeframe. This means that as important as it is to align the business, there really isn't the time to follow an overcomplicated planning approach that eats up time and resource.
2. Comprehensive but not actionable. The approach will leave you with a plan that has considered all angles and creates multiple tasks and responsibilities. However, ultimately, unless the plan is implementable by hard-pressed staff, who are already juggling a number of balls, then it risks gathering dust on the shelf with other previously abandoned plans.
3. Structure over behaviours. The traditional planning approach purposefully follows a process that can be followed by all staff, given time and space, with careful facilitation. It does not, however, develop the capabilities of the participants helping them to respond intuitively to future business challenges.
4. Episodic. Even the best written plan has its shelf life and unless your organisation is able to support the luxury of employing people to continually update the plan (believe me - this happens, especially in public services) then it will soon be yesterday's plan.
Guess what? Further on down the road, you'll want to start again.
The ABC planning approach
This new approach requires a focus on "doing the right things, not doing things right". It accepts that speed is of the essence and that it is better to act decisively with 80% of the information not wait to collect 100%. It emphasises building staff capabilities to spot opportunities, identify competitor threats and deliver value rather than create and monitor plans. In short, it is action oriented. Finally, it focuses on excellent communication of the aim and approach, not the plan itself.
So how does it work?
It has 3 components which are the A,B, C of planning:
Compiled by the senior managers with all key staff, this is a one page document (written or drawn, it doesn't matter) that sets out in simple terms:
The approach is important but of equal value is creating a culture where all staff are the exhibiting behaviours that will support the organisation's progress. In simple terms, short term targets will achieve short term impacts but recruiting and rewarding exceptional behaviours has a longer term impact.
This requires the organisation to identify the key behaviours that staff need to exhibit to achieve the overall plan. These might be as varied as "quality focused", "delighting customers", "integrity and honesty", or "partnership driven" and each will require a lower level of descriptors that will help describe to staff what exceptional behaviours look like. The organisation also needs to develop an expertise on providing feedback to staff so they know when they are achieving these
The essential element to ensuring that the plan is adopted and cherished is ensuring that it is discussed regularly (weekly or less) as part of the organisational culture. The messaging and vocabulary needs to be consistent with those promoted by the plan and through the behaviours. The communication needs to be action-oriented, constructive and participative, encouraging all employees to have a stake in the future direction. Ideally, it should be face to face not remote so that 2 way feedback can be picked up on.
Have a go. Try it.
The ABC approach needs to be owned by you and your organisation. It can not be delegated to a consultant, the communications manager, strategy manager or anyone else.....
If you want some guidelines on how to do it, speak to me and I'll coach you to lead this change, helping your business become resilient to the next punch in the mouth...
It is one of the best kept secrets in the world of business support but a Government backed scheme to help aspirational businesses make the business breakthrough they require is available for organisations that turnover below £40m with staff numbers below 250. The scheme, called GrowthAccelerator, provides access to one to one support for up to 6 days through experienced business coaches who have expertise in supporting growing businesses. Additionally, businesses can make the most of an investment in training through access to matched funding of up to £2,000 per senior staff member to support specific areas of development.
Research suggests that businesses that seek external advice and information are 50% more successful than those that do not (BIS , 2010). Equally, evidence suggests that businesses are often more likely to adopt new practices when they are introduced from outside the organisation. "There are many invisible barriers to growth" commented Chris Lorimer, one of the approved and registered business coaches, "however, it is often difficult to see them when you are confronted with the day to day activities involved in running a business".
The cost for eligible businesses can be as low as £600 plus £700 VAT for businesses employing up to 4 staff and only £3,000 + £700 VAT for businesses employing between 50 and 249 staff.
"When you consider the value of the training and coaching support can run into several thousands of £s," Lorimer continued, "if you are an aspirational business, you would be mad not to at least consider this support".
For further information contact Chris Lorimer who will put you in touch with one of the GrowthAccelerator Managers.
Telephone: 07774 827305
Be honest, you know you do it yourself, but people are making judgements about you as soon as they set eyes on you. Within the first 7 seconds, your potential customers, employers or colleagues are making assumptions about you that may determine whether they decide to find out more or give you the proverbial cold shoulder. Within those first fleeting moments, they will have assessed whether you are friendly, trustworthy, successful, interesting, inspiring, kind, astute, or, even, intelligent. Even as you are uttering your first sentence, they will have taken a view as to your job, educational attainment, level of income, sexuality, and, in short, your value to them as a human being.
Shocked? Don't be. Although we know that these initial assumptions are often wildly inaccurate, your success at developing business or personal relationships means that you have to understand what signals you are giving out and, more importantly how they are being interpreted. You are unconsciously wearing a uniform that is displaying to the wider world an image that could be secretly jeopardising your career, your ambitions, your relationships or, indeed, your ability to fit in.
So what are the signals that you are giving out? What mixture of factors is contributing to this unconsciously assembled uniform?
The good news is by focusing on just 5 areas you can overhaul, upgrade or, just, adjust your uniform, helping you influence how others see you.
1. Dress for success.
No one's suggesting that you need to buy a new wardrobe, but you do need to dress appropriately regardless of whether you are a lawyer or a teacher. Unless you are a supermodel, if clothing distracts, it will undermine the image that you are trying to put across. Dirty or outdated clothing will lead people to think that you are....dirty or outdated. Take a good look at what successful peers are wearing and adjust to match your own personality.
2. Face the truth.
The head, or more specifically, the face is the usual landing point for the eyes when you start a conversation. If you decide to create distractions for the observer through unkempt hair (wherever it might be), overaggressive make-up, novelty jewellery or glasses, then accept that it will leave an impression - hope that it is the one that you want to present.
3. Making Contact.
The first contact is crucial to the first impression. Posture, eye contact, smile, and handshake all leave impressions - are they the ones you want to leave? Beware that overconfident body language to some might make you appear arrogant or aggressive. Equally, shambling, deferential approaches may put off all but those looking to adopt.
4. Smell the roses.
They've got close enough to smell your fear, hopefully they don't. Even if it is your favourite perfume or aftershave, the best smell is no smell. Halitosis, nicotine, and body odour are major detractors in the world of image.
5. Speak unto strangers.
After the initial welcome (please sound genuine), the best step is to ask an open question ..and then wait for the answer. Remember the majority of what people understand comes from how you say it rather than what you say, so be welcoming and enthused. Make sure you are clear and listen carefully. Don't try and impress, develop rapport.
So armed with this knowledge, the wrong question to ask is "so what can I do about my image?" A better question would be "Do you need to do anything different?" Ideally you'll ask friends and colleagues to provide feedback on how you come across and whether your uniform is helping you to be successful.
How to wear the uniform of a.......bank manager
Chris Lorimer is an
experienced consultant who has helped many organisations to grow through his unique 4 Ps approach.