When the hideous, mysterious and ghastly monsters from the ivory tower command it, we all must pay our dues whether we understand why or not.
We have rounded the corner of the half-year, leaving Christmas in our wake, and have begun heading for home, the financial year-end. Believe it or not, from within the murky waters of management, the planning season rears its sizzling serpent like ugly head once again. Leaders are meeting, talking and planning for the next financial year. One of the most important and frankly obvious keys to success in planning is inclusion. Exclude your team at your peril.
“Business Plan, hah, I never saw it, no one spoke to me, no one asked me, I don’t know anything about it so what can I do, what it’s all about…”
Does this sound like your business?
Don’t despair, the good news is you’re not alone.
Do despair, the bad news is, not being alone doesn’t help one bit.
Gary Plodder is the Wurst Practice Manager
The only manager worse than Garry is Larry – Larry Schneider, the MD of Sausage City. Where do you think Gary gets his complete inability to manage? From the company leaders of course. They lead by poor example and walk the wrong talk.
- Ever had a decision imposed upon you, one you didn’t agree with but were not in a position to argue with, regardless of you being the person armed with all of the information? Plodder has.
- Ever lacked commitment to a decision imposed upon you because you had no say in it, regardless of whether the decision was right or wrong? Plodder has.
“Plodder, why don’t you show the MD and the VP, your GP and NP for quarters 1, 2 and 3.”
Six solid hours of discussions, enough butchers paper on the walls to wrap a financial years worth of fish ‘n’ chips, 4 gourmet sandwiches, 2 coffees and a handful of mints. Plodder’s over taxed stomach’s churning like a concrete mixer. He is 25 pages into a 30-page PowerPoint presentation that has every slide transition known to man. Plodder is set to deliver his piece de resistance.
“After all that’s calculated and with everything in place, I believe if we go hard, cut costs, increase productivity, and with a bit of luck, (much panting…) we can make 1.5 million dollars revenue this year.” Plodder finishes with a nervously triumphant, but fragile smile.
Larry Schneider, the MD looks up from his mobile phone for the first time in 15 minutes. He reaches for a serviette and wipes Double Brie cheese from his moustache. Plodder watches nervously waiting for a response. Schneider looks back at his phone and begins punching numbers, whilst looking menacingly over the rim of his glasses at plodder from time to time.
“It’s Plodder sir”, the CFO interjects.
“Whatever” Schneider barks impatiently, “thanks for all your work, Poster. I have just done some calculations”. The MD holds up the napkin to show Plodder some numbers scrawled on it.
“By my calculations, we can do 1.65 million. What do you think Parker, another 10%?”. Schneider grins like an evil serpent. Plodder feels like he’s just taken a blow to the chest. Two weeks solid work, a To Do list overflowing off the page, emails backed right back into the data cable connected to his computer, and in one minute, a calculation is plucked from the air and imposed upon him.
Outcome – Failure !
Failure for Plodder and Sausage City. Plodder has lost before he has begun. He has no idea how the number will be achieved and where it comes from other than a soiled napkin. Therefore he has no ownership over the number and no commitment to it, other than fear. He is totally motivated by fear, fear of job security. It’s an ”if I can just scrape by” scenario.
Meanwhile in a parallel universe
OUTCOME – SUCCESS !!
The difference between real success and failure in business planning has a lot to do with the commitment your employees have to the final plan. Do they own the plan? Do they feel responsible for its delivery and accountable for its success or failure? Do they believe in the plan and do they believe it’s achievable.
Communicate the big picture
It’s critical that employees understand the big picture, that they are able to connect their effort, their business plan goals and targets to the company strategy, including Mission and Visions. Explain the strategy to employees and demonstrate you can articulate the value in the strategy. That’s the value to both the company and to them.
Inclusion in Discussions and Debates
Include employees in discussions and debates generating the conclusions that underpin business strategies and planning. Often we feel it’s too costly to get everyone involved, but it’s much more costly to plan and fail.
Collaborative Goal Setting
When your employees are informed and included, they can collaborate in the setting of goals and targets for their teams and for themselves as individuals, engendering ownership and a sense of accountability for success.
Appreciation and recognition
Employees need to know you appreciate them and that you recognise the outcomes they have delivered. Set them tasks in the business planning process, monitor and support them and demonstrate you value their efforts and are equally committed to the outcomes of their efforts as yours.
Clear and Transparent Communication
Communication is always one of the most important aspects of Employee Engagement. Keep everyone in the loop through the planning process. Why should it be a surprise to anyone? After all, we are a team, not a bunch of individuals. Listen to hear and ask questions to learn. Demonstrate genuine empathy. If the work your employees are doing is not important to you, then why are they doing it? Good communication is equally important for business planning as it is for everyday activities.
If you feel you need to keep the business planning process and outcomes a secret from your employees, then you should accept you will not have 100% commitment to your plan and you risk it not reaching it’s full potential.