In the last post I explained the reasons why I implemented the quarterly action planning process. Now I will reveal the detail to you so that you can adopt a similar process in your business.
Quarterly Action Planning
The quarterly action planning process that I introduced a couple of years ago into my business has revolutionised it in terms of efficiency. This is a great time of year for you to introduce a similar system as well. I know that it will work for you.
Start with your Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)
This term always makes me laugh. You can call it your one “big business goal” for the year or your “prime objective”. It really doesn’t matter. It is the one thing that you see as more important than anything else in terms of business growth and development.
As an example I may decide that my prime objective for 2019 is to purchase £5 million worth of property. I don’t know how I am going to achieve that yet and that doesn’t matter when you are deciding on your BHAG. Using the quarterly action planning process will help you to actually achieve the goal.
If you are not used to creating yearly prime objectives then I urge you to do so. After I started to do this I found that everything fell into place and I could focus my actions, and those of my employees, to reach this goal.
Some people ask me if you should have more than one big goal per year. For a business the size of mine one is certainly enough. If you have a larger business then it is possible to have more than one BHAG. But always bear in mind that focus is really important, and if you have too many goals you can end up achieving none of them.
Break your BHAG down into Sub Goals
After deciding on my one big goal I will then break this down into a number of sub goals ( 5 – 7 is a good number). These dovetail into the BHAG and they are all about how I am going to achieve my prime objective.
If I want to purchase £5 million worth of property in 2019 then I will need to achieve certain sub goals. For example, I will need a number of new investors to fund the property purchases so a sub goal for me could be to “find 10 new investors”. Buying properties means appraising deals so another sub goal could be to “appraise 50 new deals”.
These sub goals are very important because they will be broken down into smaller chunks and they will feed into my quarterly action planning process. For example, if I want to appraise 50 new deals this year then there are certain steps that I need to go through to achieve this number.
Focus Areas and Action Steps
To add even more structure into my quarterly action planning process I decided that I would have three focus areas each quarter. One of the main reasons that I did this is because it was very easy for me to come up with a huge list of tasks to meet a sub goal. But this can be overwhelming and I needed to be realistic about what I could achieve in 3 months.
So I created focus areas. These are areas of my business which need improvement. Examples of this could be marketing, automation and systems, the sales process and so on. Within each of these focus areas there are between 10 and 14 action steps assigned to different individuals in the business.
I use a quarterly action planning sheet which has a start and end date, each focus area, the action steps within that focus area, who is responsible for delivering each action and the target date for completing the action.
Success Criteria and Key KPI’s
It’s fine to have an organised list of action steps under focus areas assigned to different individuals. But how do I know whether an action or set of actions is delivering the results that I want to achieve?
The answer to this is the use of “success criteria” and a “key KPI” (Key Performance Indicator) for each focus area. You cannot manage what you cannot measure, and I want to be sure that what we were doing is taking the business in the right direction. I didn’t want to develop a “busy business” that was really going nowhere.
Success criteria relate to a task or collection of tasks. When I was in the processes of automation I decided that initially I wanted some of the automation tasks to save at least 20 hours of work per month. By deciding on this specific success criterion I could measure if the actions were successful or not in saving the working hours.
A key focus KPI is more high level. For example, I had a sub goal where I wanted to agree on a number of sites for the sourcing of land for development projects. The KPI that I set for this was “Sites agreed”.
Adding “Realism” to the Quarterly Action Planning process
Sometimes normal business activities will get in the way of you achieving all of your actions in a quarter. I knew that this would happen so I set realistic targets for action achievement. If an opportunity arises for the business to make money then the action steps are always going to be secondary to this. So, I decided on a target of 80% completion of all actions as recommended in the Traction book mentioned previously. It is not realistic to expect to get every action step completed, but a good target to work towards is 80%.
What do I do with the actions that are not completed? Well if they are still important to the business going forward and I want to maintain that specific focus area then I roll these into the next quarterly planning cycle. I discuss why we didn’t complete certain actions with my team and then decide whether to keep them going or not.
I found that as we were working through the tasks in the various focus areas that other tasks would naturally emerge. I assess these additional tasks for importance. If they were important and we could complete them quickly then we do them. If they need more time I roll them into the next quarter.
When I come up with a new idea (or anyone else does) I assess it for importance too. I then add the idea to the next quarter if I want to go ahead with it. This ensures that I do not disrupt the current actions with a new project.
When designing my quarterly action planning process I split the system into different departments such as higher level planning, finance, sales, marketing, operations etc. I add every new idea or task to the appropriate category in my project management system. I then go through everything that is outstanding when planning the next quarter’s actions.
A Very Effective System of Management
Since I have introduced this quarterly action planning process into my business it has become a lot more efficient. We have saved hundreds of hours through automation and the resulting amounts of money on wages. My employees are able to perform higher level work as opposed to the mundane. They are now able to focus more on the customers and finding new deals.
I now have an automated system in my business that takes care of everything including emails, viewings, customer onboarding and so on.
I can say without a doubt that my quarterly action planning process has made my business a lot more efficient. My team and I are now able to focus on growing the business rather than dealing with everyday minutia. I strongly recommend that you introduce a quarterly action planning process into your business right now.