Rich Horwath, CEO of the Strategic Thinking Institute, found in his recent research that...
- 44% of managers spent most of their time firefighting in cultures that rewarded reactivity and discouraged thoughtfulness.
- 96% claimed they lacked time for strategic thinking, again, because they were too busy putting out fires.
For me, nothing surprising here in Rich Horwath's data since if a management team hasn't created a rhythm for its annual planning process, it's very awkward at best and actually threatening to just jump into the deep end of the pool. Having been a student of strategy and business planning for a really long time, here's a couple of guidelines I've learned that may help you break out of the cycle of never having enough time.
First, think of just 5%Let's assume that you're working 60 hours a week, which, of course, doesn't count the work that you're working during flights, at nights and on the weekends.
60 hours a week works out to around 3,200 hours a year, but remember, that's gross and doesn't account for holidays, vacations and general standard periods of downtime.
After measuring our most successful strategic planners from hundreds of companies over the years, it appears that the best senior managers, working as a team, each spend about 5% of their time, or about 150 hours a year, actually working through the strategy processes, the meetings and the follow up task teams that are not directly related to their "day jobs". Not a ton of time when you think about it especially when it's staged out over the period of the year.
Second, Schedule out your planning calendarPlan on a two day planning session late summer or in mid-September that tackles the 24-36 month strategic and tactical view of things. During this time, maybe you want to take away the "W's" and prioritize the "O's" during an analytical assessment of a well-researched SWOT. Perhaps you want to swim through a Blue Ocean process, or maybe carefully pick your way through Porter's five forces in order to focus your sales managers or your senior management team on defined strategies for 2017.
Why two days? First, there's just too much analysis, dissection and prioritization time required to attempt to squeeze all of this into one day. Second, you want to make absolutely sure that everyone is in full agreement with the choices being made since the four or five follow-on task team review meetings during the year will be focused on reporting out against the objectives and activities coming out of this longer offsite. Getting to absolute full agreement just takes a lot of time.
Then follow that event with four quarterly one day meetings that will largely be used for each of the task teams to report against their progress on their objectives that were set in the annual two day retreat. During these one-dayers, you will also be digging deeper into some of the nuances of the overall strategic plan that have come up since the August/September meeting.
Third, focus ON JUST A FEW NEEDLE MOVERSThere's your day job, and then there's finding the time and the energy to commit to the 5% job.
What are the "typical" number of strategic initiatives, the primary directions,if you will, that the best management teams can balance at any given time? My answer would be three or maybe four only if that fourth strategy is very tightly aligned with each of the other core three.
Defining strategies of what you plan to do and what you decide not to do, is both very difficult and always challenging. Done well, it can also be extremely rewarding if everything ties together and, most importantly, you can demonstrably move the needle in the shorter term of 6 to 12 to 18 months. The secret to success in this process is that each of these strategies needs to be thoroughly vetted and fully agreed to among all of the members of the planning team, whether that's the senior team for the company or all of the salespeople in the region.
In order to make this process of planning a bit easier for you, each summer, we update our free 100 page book, "Writing the Winning Business Plan", which you can download at our Solution Center, where you can also find a number of other tools to make your 2017 planning work easier.
Also, when you have questions, just email us, and we will quickly set up a time to talk and become a (free) confidential sounding board. Take a bit of your time this weekend and think through your sales and your business planning processes and make sure that it's effective and works for the benefit of you and your team.
Still Looking for Tufts Marketing and Sales Projects for the Spring
With my announcement in last week's blog for projects for my current Marketing course and my new Sales course at Tufts in January, we had a number of excellent projects that we have signed up, and I am still looking for additional projects.
If you're interested in submitting either a marketing or a sales project for this spring, just email me at jack@derbymanagement, and I will send out the instructions on what's expected, the logistics and the dates for the spring semester for both the sales and the marketing courses.
Remember back to when you were in college, and you were wondering how you were going to put into use that course in sociology or whatever you were studying at the time? At Tufts, the experience we provide for our marketing and sales students through these projects is unique since they learn strategy, they debate tactics, and then get their hands dirty by actually diving deep into the crankcase oil by being asked to provide detailed recommendations and actual execution actvities. That's the value received on the student's side of the table.
For your company's side of the table, the value received is...
- extraordinary hard work coupled with a very high work ethic on the part of these students
- deep market and competitor research
- fresh and innovative ideas
- and, interestingly enough...experience. Every team has at least one and often time more students who already have had experience through prior marketing, BDR and sales internships.
Congratulations of finishing October and good selling for the balance of the quarter!