The article below was given to me by one of my clients. We had just wrapped up our quarterly strategy review, and this article was written to be included in their upcoming company newsletter. The purpose was to inform all employees, to let them know why each quarter, the entire management team goes off site for a day of planning.
I’m posting this because my client’s unsolicited comments are spot on… the power of pausing, reflecting, and gathering perspective has a profound effect on growing a company. This company is evidence of that fact. Before we began the planning process, they were experiencing year-over-year flat line on both revenue and profits. Since our planning process began a few years ago, they’ve grown revenue by 50% with a 5x increase in bottom line profit. Suffice it to say, proper planning works.
I hope you find his story helpful and even inspirational, and that you don’t buy the myth that stopping slows you down.
Getting Out of the Trees So We Can See the Forest
We’ve all heard the saying “Can’t see the Forest because of all the Trees”. Sometimes we can be so involved in the details we lose track of the bigger picture. Happens to us all. And when that does happen, we become less effective and maybe even frustrated. At those times we need to step out of the daily activity of our lives and spend some time reflecting and regrouping. This could mean a long weekend, a vacation, or some sort of retreat. Maybe spending time in prayer or meditation will help us refocus. When I was managing my previous firm, I would spend 2 days each month in the public library away from my phone, the emails, and all the busyness of the office. I did this just to organize my life and set priorities.
The management team here has been taking a day away from the office every three months to do the same. We conduct what we call our StratOp meetings. Short for Strategy and Operations Planning, these meetings are a way for us as managers to step away from all the trees and study the forest. Why do we do this? To get a look at the big picture and refocus on what’s important to the Company and to fulfill our corporate mission.
More specifically, how do we do this? Well, we can’t do this on our own. We bring in a qualified StratOp facilitator to guide us through this process. Jay Hidalgo has been helping companies for several years sharpen their focus and improve their management practices. He has been an invaluable resource to us. Each meeting begins with a time of prayer because without God’s providential care over us and His blessings, we are just wasting our time! Then we review our 5-year Business Plan as this is one of our guiding documents. Another “document” we review is our Vision Statement. This is a series of positive statements that paint a clear picture of where we would like to be in the future. We are not there yet, but this is our destination.
After these reviews. We ask 4 basic questions about the state of our Company:
- What’s right?
- What’s wrong?
- What’s confusing?
- What’s missing?
As we attempt to answer these questions, we keep our Plans, our Mission, and our Vision in front of us. It’s important that our answers always conform to and support these 3 important statements. The outcome of our discussions on these questions leads us to take steps to optimize what’s right, correct what’s wrong, clarify what may be confusing to us, and find ways to fill in the gaps on what may be missing.
These steps we call our Action Initiatives. These initiatives are concrete tasks or projects that we have identified that will help us answer our basic questions. In subsequent meetings, we review how well we are doing on completing these initiatives and we hold each other accountable for getting things done.
Are these planning sessions stiff and formal? Not at all! There is a lot of conversation and a lot of give and take. There is another common phrase out there: “Iron sharpens Iron”. How does that work? Through friction! And so, we allow some friction to happen at these meetings in order to produce better outcomes. Our management team respects each other, and we allow each person to speak openly on these topics.
We take time out to refocus on the forest: our plans and visions. Then we look at the trees and make sure we are doing the right things correctly. The result has been, and will continue to be, becoming a better company!