We need to create plans all the time, business plans, account plans, growth plans, acquisition plans, project plans etc. We even create holiday plans. There really is no magic to creating plans, but what there is … is EFFORT! It takes a willingness to roll up the sleeves and really apply yourself, if you want to create a good plan. If a plan is worth doing then it is worth doing well!
If I break it down into components the I would suggest a plan should have at least five stages, starting with having a clear goal for the plan, right through to the action items that will get you where you want to go.
Here is my very high level look at what it takes to create a plan … any plan!
1. The Goal of the plan.
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Yogi Berra
What are you trying to achieve through this exercise. For example a new account manager may be trying to develop a plan of attack for making an impact in their new role; OR anybody in need to shaking things up may choose to go through this process; OR even someone looking to create a special holiday might choose to go through this kind of planning exercise!
2. Data gathering.
“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.” Arthur Conan Doyle
There are many sources of data and the more inputs to a plan the better. If it is a new salesperson then they may want to talk to their peers to gather lessons learned, history they should know about, messages that work etc. A new CEO might have a set of questions to ask all of his direct reports and perhaps key people throughout the organization, including the front line workers. If it is a holiday plan the person might look at all the different types of vacations out there, the different general geographies and may need to gather data from anyone who might be joining them on the trip.
3. Problem identification/Areas to be addressed.
“A problem well put, is half solved.” John Dewey
That new account manager might decide to identify three types of clients to target … key current clients; high potential clients; and decent opportunity clients. A new CEO might identify the underperforming areas within the company and target those. The holiday planner may need better understand the pros and cons of different types of vacation given all of the differing needs/wants of those on the trip.
4. Prioritisation of issues and goals for each of those areas to be addressed.
“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” Stephen R. Covey
That new account manager might decide to identify three types of clients to target … key current clients; high potential clients; and decent opportunity clients. The account manager could then set goals for meetings, new orders, closed business and new contact names for each of the next 3 months. The holiday planner will lay out options and put together ideas about how to get to that final choice.
5. Action item development, with measurable outcomes and a timeline.
“There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.” Mark Twain
This is where the rubber meets the road. If you have goals with no action items then your plan is not a plan! A plan lays out the way to achieve those goals. That account manager might identify the key contacts in all of those target accounts and set a goal to meet all of them within a set time. She might set herself goals for numbers of orders to get and closed business to book. She will have timelines associated with these goals. The holiday planner might need to have more meetings with participants, research in more details final choices, and put together a pros and cons document for each of those choices.
Once a plan is done then there is a roadmap for the execution of the plan. At this point the strategy is in place and the “all important” execution needs to happen.