POST WRITTEN BY
Sarah Beth Aubrey
Executive coach, group facilitator, leadership training professional & founder of A.C.T. Learn more:sarahbethaubrey.com.
I’m a process builder. Call me a process-a-holic. I’ve created processes for just about everything from simple templates for use after coaching sessions to complex cataloging for my wine collection. But really, I build processes because doing so is a practice that is repeatable and brings structure to any project. Besides, when the process doesn’t work anymore, it can be improved or discarded.
The process of getting to this isn’t always pretty. In fact, my “plan on a page,” a strategy that forces leaders to focus quickly and cast away their doubt in order to find a solution, was a concept initially based on desperation born of a deadlocked group on a deadline. As the hired facilitator, I was on deck to help this group reach a consensus and formulate a plan they could use. I divided the room into pairs and asked the pairs to examine five points and report back.
The results were pretty miraculous. When forced to do so quickly and without the threat of speaking up, all small group findings were extremely similar, such that I was able to capture everything on one page. Seeing the consensus appear before their eyes, the committee’s barriers to action were eliminated.
Today, in my performance-based coaching and small business strategy practice, what I like about the concept of process is leverage, specifically the leverage of time and money. For example, the “plan on a page” process works for busy business owners or small teams by shortening — to one hour or less — the process of building a strategic plan. I’ve used this to help clients conduct the once daunting exercise largely on their own. After walking through the basics of crafting a plan on a page, the process can be repeated as often as needed. That saves money since an outside consultant isn’t required every time you want to update.
While I often teach the “plan on a page” process in seminars and on-site consulting, the structure outlined below can be used to help teams, committees and family business partners create a strategic plan — one that they will actually use — in one hour or less. Covering just five main points, I believe you can craft an effective plan that works.
How To Begin
The process is simple. Get situated to focus for an hour, grab your preferred writing instrument, and use the five steps described below, giving only 10 minutes to each. If you are with a group, either pair off or work independently before sharing.
1. Core Values
Start by listing what you value, jotting up to three independent ideals and any context for these values.
2. Future Vision
Keeping the values in mind, how do these key elements that matter inform what you want for the future? Is it different from today? If so, how? List no more than three sentences describing the business of the future.
3. SWOT Analysis
You’re really hustling now — and that’s the point. If you’ve done a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis before, you’re probably wondering how to get that done in 10 minutes. Stop wondering and start answering. List two independent items for each category and don’t get bogged down with flim-flam concerns or notions that “might” be of issue. Select items that are concrete.
4. SMART Goals
With half the hour remaining, turn to goal setting using the truly tried SMART method: specific, measurable, ambitious, realistic and timely. Again, if it seems like a stretch, it is. Select up to three goals and be sure each can be assigned SMART status to each. If you can’t, delete it. Concerned about the timeframe? Refer back to the future vision and work on incremental goals to get you there. Remember, you can always come back to this plan and that is the point.
Select one priority. I repeat, one priority. Many of us have the tendency to pluralize the word. I love what author Greg McKeown says in his book Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less: “The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years.” Stop making priorities plural. Now.
You may not leave the room until you have set up accountability and follow through actions. Find an accountability partner with whom you’ll share the plan. Contact them now. Then, pull out your calendar and set a date to review it no more than 60 days into the future.
Big Plans Are Needed Too, Just Not Always
I’m not demeaning large-scale or highly involved strategic planning initiatives. In fact, I work on these, too. What I’ve found, however, is that sometimes generating too much information over too long of a timeframe results in flat out overwhelm. The strategic “plan on a page” process pushes participants to think, be decisive, and be honest about what’s really important. The “plan on a page” should be used, reviewed and updated. As such, it does fit in nicely with broader long-term initiatives as a way to keep the momentum going. So, don’t be skeptical. Give the process a try — it’s only an hour.