VA Research: Planning to execute

VA Research: Planning to execute

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It is that time of the year! Planning for the New Year (Coming up with a plan that you can to execute to)

I have over 20 years of experience in working with large, mid-sized and small companies. In these years I believe I have seen some of the best companies and others! One of the main differences between these companies is the fact that good ones invariably seemed execute to plan. But HOW????? What is it that they do that we can learn from and implement in our own companies or divisions?

For a long time I did not know how to construct a good Annual Operating Plan (AOP) and like most techies thought “How hard can this be? I will just search it on the web”. After a few hours of reading quack and con artists guising to provide magic pills for every company in the world, I resigned to the fact that the web was not very helpful. But I was not going down without a fight. I said to myself “Hey, I am a MBA from a reputed University. Let me go check my notes.” I did and to my dismay it was good information and helped me with the fundamentals but did not serve me well because I was looking at an annual plan for the next year of an existing company that had real constraints. Then I did right thing and started talking to some of my mentors who have led many companies internally and outside my organization. They were very insightful and helped me come up with a working AOP for my division. Since then I have used the same framework to prepare a working AOP for the future.

In this article we talk about the guidelines for a good plan and how to go about creating a good AOP that can then be executed to:

Step 1: Collect the AOP/financial record for the current year and then project it for the rest of the year to help close out the year. That way we have a forecast for the year end numbers.

Step 2: Review your Mission/Vision statement to see if that has changed in any way to the needs of the market and your organization. Based on your updated mission/vision statement come up with tentative goals for the next year. Along with that go through and list out the constraints of the organization. It might sound obvious to you but going through this exercise with your senior management team will help everyone understand and get oriented towards the mission/vision and understand the goals of the organization.

Step 3: List of the initiatives with a brief explanation of each initiative, its high level costs, opportunity cost, and see how these initiatives would result into the goals for your organization. A working template of this would look something like this.

Initiative ROI Investments Opportunity costs Owner Start date Expected End date Status Actual End date

Step 4: Go through each initiative and do the necessary research for the year and come up with set of possible corporate initiatives to meet the initiatives and with it the goals of your organization. This has to be a shared responsibility and each member of your executive team will have to make sure that they pick up flushing out the initiative document template for each effort that would make up the organization operations plan for the next year.

An Initiative document template for planning must have the following structure:

    1. Goal
    2. Background
    3. Why
    4. What
    5. How
    6. ROI: Full financial plan 
    7. Who
    8. Start and End dates
    9. Status
    10. Impact on departments
    11. Impact on documentations and SOP
    12. Impact on sales and marketing collateral

Step 5: Review each initiative as team and finalize the AOP and the financial plan that goes with it. This has to be word document and not a power point presentation.

Step 6: This is the critical step. Make sure that you have an intermediate steps and goals for each initiative at regular intervals like 15 days before the end of each quarter. Have clear quantitative targets associated with each initiative so that you can pull the plug on any initiative if you don’t succeed to achieve the minimum numbers by the end of a quarter.

Step 7: Communicate the plan to all the stake holders and make sure that everyone buys into the top three initiatives for the organization. It is always good to have the entire organization talk the common language.

Follow these 7 steps and you will have a very successful implementable plan.

When I have talked about this in the past to many a CEO they have told me “You know Harsha, we don’t do things this formally but we have a similar plan with every initiative. A few of us in the organization usually have all these thoughts in our mind and when it feels right we pull the plug or pour in more resources to help the initiative to the next level. Why should we follow this process?”

My response is simple. I ask them, “What is the rate of success of most of these plans and your ability to adhere to these plans?” This is a rhetorical question because both us usually know the answer that most of the times these initiatives die because the CxOs get caught up in the vicissitudes of the business. With a structured and documented approach that we have recommended here it becomes simple to have someone else in the organization track the progress of the initiative and make sure that we succeed as an organization because the entire organization is adhering to the needs of the organizational initiatives.

Call for action:

By the time you read this article most of you would have come back from your Thanks Giving break and the family and friends are already thinking of gift and plans for year ending holiday break. What about your business? If you have not already come up with one, it is time to draw up your AOP for 2013. One of the ways to come up with a good AOP is to use a forcing function. Have a mentor, guide or an executive consultant come in and help you guide you through the process. This helps your entire team be disciplined,  structured and take this effort more seriously.

The next logical question that people ask is “But Harsha, this is all fine. How do you ensure that we execute our plans to success. We have never been successful at it!” We will be covering just that in next Friday’s article that you can read over the holiday break!

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns with your efforts of planning your company AOP for the next year. We will be glad to help with no expectations in return because we feel passionately about ‘Executing Strategies to Success’.

About Vantage Agora

Vantage Agora (VA) is a global provider of back-office solutions, custom IT services and consulting services for companies in the insurance, finance, and healthcare sectors. As a SSAE 16 Type II audited company, Vantage Agora utilizes advanced data processing and quality control systems on a secured network to ensure efficient, comprehensive management of back-office functions such as insurance, accounting, financial and administrative tasks. Founded in 2004, Vantage Agora has offices in Cleveland and Dallas.



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