As we get closer to 2016 you will be (or should be!) working on your business plan for the year. As part of this process it can be useful to test the inputs to and outputs from your planning process, before the plan is signed off and specific objectives are assigned to individuals and teams.
The following are some questions to ask yourself to validate the quality of your planning :
- Have you carried out sufficient research into the external environment – industry trends, emerging technologies, competitor offerings/pricing, potential new sources of competition, changes in regulatory environment and trends in the economy?
- Have you got the balance right between diversity and focus? Do you have a diversity of income streams (customers, industry segments, product areas) to reduce exposure to any one sector or customer group? Alternatively, is the business too widely spread resulting in a lack of focus and reduction in the quality of your offering?
- If you are planning new initiatives in 2016 do you know what success would look like (clear goals within specific timeframes)? Do you have warning signals in place to indicate when a review is required to ensure that ‘good money does not follow bad’ if an initiative is failing?
- Have you validated your business model in recent interactions with customers? Do you know their current pain points? Do you understand the ‘job of work’ you do for customers? Have you priced for what customers value? Have you reviewed what work should be done internally and what out sourced? Should you ‘drop’ any part of your offering or change/narrow your market focus?
- Have you identified Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and put in place a system for monitoring actual performance versus KPI’s?
- Have you tested all key assumptions in your plan? Is there over reliance on gut feelings? Have you analysis/facts to back up key assumptions about demand, sales and profit margins?
- Have you had an inclusive strategic planning process? Have you encouraged alternative views? Do employees have ownership of the plan?
- Have you reviewed the knowledge and experience in the team and put a plan in place to close any gaps? Have you a plan to recruit new hires to cater for expected increased workload?
- Do you know your company culture? Are company values consistent with achievement of the company vision? Are values and belief statements consistent with the ‘way we actually do things around here’ ? Does the company culture support innovation and change? Do you have a motivated and engaged workforce? Do you have a plan for dealing with disengaged employees?
- Have you reviewed your reporting lines in the light of the plan for 2016 ? Are reporting lines optimal? As a business owner do you have too many direct reports?