Make your planning meetings count

We are constantly being reminded that planning is the key to business success. 'Failing to plan,' the saying goes, 'is planning to fail.'

So every so often we dutifully gather our key staff in the conference room or hotel suite. We assemble the flip chart, distribute the Post-it notes, and begin the familiar ritual of brainstorming goals and objectives.

No change

At the end of the day we return to our offices with the next three months' goals:
'Become more customer-focused,' 'Improve procedures,' 'Strengthen teamwork' and so on. And of course nothing changes. So how can we make sure that our planning meetings really do have a beneficial effect on the business?

Avoid conference-speak

It is very easy to fall into the trap of communicating with each other in a detached 'conference-speak' that virtually ensures any goals or objectives we articulate are too vague to be implemented. The result is, of course, that such exercises gradually lose their credibility and the opportunity to make use of employees' energy to make significant progress is lost.

However, if approached in the right way, it is possible to make planning a meaningful activity that contributes to real improvements in both performance and profitability.

Five-point planning procedure

The overall objective of a planning exercise must be to set measurable goals to be accomplished within a specified period by implementing clearly defined procedures.

Try following this five-point procedure:

  1. Limit your wish list to two or three projects. Long lists tend to lead to unstructured busyness rather than measurable progress
  1. Avoid vague or clichéd objectives. Spell out in plain English precisely what is to be achieved, by whom and by what means
  1. Establish clear criteria for measuring progress and assign someone to do just that
  1. Specify how the plan may be modified, if at all, as it is implemented
  1. Agree a definite time and place to evaluate the final outcome - and be sure to conduct that evaluation

Progress in business does depend upon planning, but only if that planning is practical, measurable and subsequently implemented.

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