Seven steps for a productive quarterly review
Shweta Jhajharia, The London Coaching Group (www.londoncoachinggroup.com)
When was the last time you took time out for a detailed review of this year's business goals and plans? Was it only at the start of the year? Or did you stop at the end of the last quarter to go through a strategic planning process?
If you did, well done – this kind of constant review of your business plan is a crucial part to fast but sustainable growth.
However, it is also important that you are doing the right kind of review. What I mean is you do not want to do what most people do with their New Year's Resolutions – talk about them but never achieve them. Instead, you want use a clear strategic planning process that will help you keep on track towards your ultimate goals.
Good goal reviewing and strategic planning is not just about dreaming – it is about taking dreams and figuring out how to make them your reality.
So what should you be reviewing and creating at the beginning of the next quarter? Here is the 7-step strategic planning process that we use with our business coaching clients:
Step 1: Review Your Past Year
The first thing you need to do is take a look at the last 12 months. This is about getting the overall view of the direction the business is taking. You can also start taking stock of how much time you have spent just working in the job of the business rather than working ON the business.
Here are a few questions to prompt your thoughts:
Has your team been working effectively and productively together? What projects did they or didn't they work well on?
What goals/milestones did you achieve in the last year?
What difference has this made to your business?
What did you not achieve that you intended to? Why not?
What has been the impact to you and your business?
Step 2: Review Your Current Position
Once you have done an overarching review of the last year, narrow it down to right now. Do an objective review of what you have achieved in the quarter that has just passed and write an overview of your current situation – especially focusing on what is still missing and needs to be done.
To prompt this overview, here are some questions to think about:
How were profits over the last quarter?
What goals/milestones mark the end of this quarter?
What did you not you achieve that you intended to? Why not?
What do you need to carry over or continue working on in the next quarter?
Step 3: Set Your Personal Goals
In our experience as business coaches, we find the best way to achieve goals is to define your long-term goals first (that is, goals to achieve in 5-10+ years). Then you go on to break those down into three-year goals, and then into one-year goals.
The drive to make your business a success often comes from the knowledge that your success in business comes with the ability to achieve your personal goals. So even though this may be non-business related, it can still be critical to your success in business.
A quick tip for writing goals: write emotively and write in the present tense. For example, "I feel elated and humbled by just completing the Kokoda track on Anzac day 2014." This creates a deeper connection between you and your goal, and comes from the angle of envisioning yourself already achieving it, rather than from the angle of working your way up to it.
Step 4: Create Your Plan
There are a few stages to creating your plan from your goals.
When you have written your one-year goals, you will then want to start categorising them. These should emerge from your goals quite naturally. Your categories may include Travel, Finances, Family, Social Life, Charity/Community, Business or whatever else is important in your life.
Once you have those written down, you can extract your business goals and flesh these out for your business. You may want to re-categorise them at this point, perhaps using different departments of your business as categories (such as Marketing, Recruitment, Finance, Team etc.).
Now that you have these categories, you can begin the process of prioritisation. Choose one – just one – goal in each category that is the absolute most important one. This should be the one you will achieve no matter what else happens. Highlight this in your goals list.
Next, write down next to each of your goals the actions you need to take to achieve those goals. Here you need to get specific and realistic. Hitting milestones is one of the ways that we motivate ourselves to keep going towards the ultimate goal, so start putting down numbers you can actually achieve here.
With this set of actions for each goal, creating the rest of your plan becomes easy: look at the actions you need to achieve for the year and split them out over the four quarters of the year.
Once you have your quarterly actions, split these out across the 13 weeks of the quarter.
You have then created a clear set of tasks to do every week in order to achieve those lofty goals you started with. This makes it a lot easier to see how it can be achieved realistically.
Step 5: Assign Accountability
Now that you are clear on what needs to be done over the next quarter and year, you then need to clarify WHO is going to do these things. Every business should draw up an Accountability Chart. In this chart, you take all the different functions in your business – Head of Company, Marketing, R&D, Sales, Support, Finances etc. and make sure that for each of them.
There is a person who is held accountable for this function
There is a list of leading indicators (i.e. Key Performance Indicators or KPIs) that tracks that function's performance
There are clear results/outcomes from that function that directly relate to lines on your Profit & Loss, Balance Sheet and/or Cashflow statements.
During this process you should also be asking yourself, for each function:
Is there more than one person in a seat?
Is there a person in more than one seat?
Are there any empty seats?
Would your rehire the person in charge of this again?
These questions will help you make the decisions to ensure the functions in your business are running as efficiently as possible with the right people in charge of them.
Step 6: Create Default Diaries
Now you have weekly actions and you know who is responsible for each action, so you can take this one step further.
Inevitably, for every person accountable for functions in your company, there will be actions that will be required each week in order to maintain the KPIs listed for their function on the Accountability Chart.
You should be blocking out time for those activities every week so that they are completed no matter what other tasks crop up.
Draw up a calendar for the week with half-hour blocks from 7am through to 10pm. Block out areas of your calendar for the activities that are required for the functions you are accountable for. You will probably also want to include areas where you need to block time for personal goals – such as spending time with family or practicing hobbies.
Every person in your company should have a default diary. If it is easier, you can build these in calendars such as Google Calendar or iCal and set recurring events every week on their work calendar.
Once you have a default diary, you can then plan other appointments and activities around these core tasks so that you are constantly working towards your ultimate goals, even while dealing with the day-to-day.
Step 7: Review Your Plan Weekly
All the lists and plans that you have created during the quarterly review process are dynamic, not static, documents.
You should be pulling out your weekly plan at the beginning of each week and ticking off the actions you did achieve and highlighting the ones you did not. If you did not do them, ask yourself why. Is the goal no longer important to you or do you need to make adjustments in order to prioritise these tasks? Remove or carry them forward as necessary.
This should not take you too long, but taking the time to sit down and review this on a weekly basis, I can assure you, will leave you more focused on the right areas of your business. Undoubtedly, that will result in greater and consistent growth of your business rather than simply continuing along a plateau, or seeing jerky movements upwards. Taking the time out can sometimes be a difficult thing to schedule into your diary. That is why having a business mentor or attending Strategic Planning Day workshops can be beneficial: someone will hold you accountable.