No matter what organization or industry that I am in, I typically see the same problems (and opportunities) around executing on a business plan. One of the most common issues is that organizations typically do no have a satisfactory operating planning process. You see this less in startups since the resources are typically really constrained and your teams are laser beam focused on a succinct mission. In the case of startups, the operating planning is typically not as sophisticated. Its generally very easy to attempt to tackle too many initiatives – this will mean that you execute on nothing. One of my favorite operators is Rob Solomon who was a Board member at Mpire and is now the President of the insanely fast growing social shopping company Groupon ; he used to hammer operating planning in every meeting. He would often bluntly make his point by saying, “remember that ideas are like assholes, everyone has one.”
I find that is always useful to drive operating timelines. Its useful to parse your operating planning with my mantra being “small bites, chew fast.” I have blogged about this in the past here. Getting everyone focused on the same things ensures that you’ll get to where you want to go. Make sure broadly communicate these key milestones (by month) externally within your company. The key is to boil your business down to the key metrics, initiatives, and milestones so that you can execute. Here are some tips for providing the right operational structure:
• Financial metrics - an overview of your top 3-5 key performance indicators (KPIs) for your business as well as the budget number. Make the financial message easy and memorable for anyone to understand. If you are familiar with the Subway commerical then you will remember how much their subway sandwiches cost.
• Initiatives list - list your top 3-6 initiatives; these are key to implement as part of your business. Those should be bubbled up as part of your regular strategic planning process. Some tips including some planing templates can be found here.
• Detailed list of tactics by month - list out the top activities that your team and you are going to accomplish each month
I strongly believe that a solid set of operating processes that follow your strategic planning ensures that you are on the right track.