Transformation Advisors, Inc.
B.I.G. Strategies for Business Excellence

STRATEGY: FOCUS YOUR PLANNING.

Another article on planning!? Why should you read this one?

Because you may be over-complicating things.

We are well into the fourth quarter of this year. Has 2011 been a B.I.G. (Business Is Great) year? Or not so great? Do you even know? It’s easy to get caught up in the negative media hype.

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Business.Is.Great.

Pamela A. Millard, CPCU

Pamela A. Millard, CPCU 530.295.1083

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What indicators are you watching? Retention? Revenue? Expenses? The Dow? The unemployment figures? If these are the numbers that frame your thinking, you might want to change your perspective.
During unsettling times, it’s difficult to thing about planning as productive, yet its more important than ever.

The Planning Process
If you’re not going around in circles, your not doing it right... What?

That’s right. Planning is a process. You do it over and over. In it’s simplest form, there are only three steps.

How effectively are you staying focused on teh right plans?

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Planning Cycle

  1. Apply. Who, how and when are part of the plan. A goal, without a plan to get there, is not achievable.
  2. Measure. Part of the plan is a way to measure the effectiveness of what you’ve implemented. Some goals are easier to measure than others. How many, how much. Sometimes you have to use time as a measuring tool. How often, by when. Some things can be measured in terms of accomplishment. Did it get done—yes or no. And sometimes the measurement must be subjective. Did it produce improvement or the desired results. But if you can’t measure it, you might as well not spend resources on it.
  3. Adjust. If what you’re doing isn’t working, you need to do something different. If it is working you need to do more of it. This is how you get continuous improvement. This is how you reach your goals and keep growing.
    Adjust your actions – or your plan. I am fond of quoting Dwight Eisenhower, who said something like, “plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” If the goal is not being met, it doesn’t mean the plan was “bad.” It may have been the wrong plan, or the wrong time, or there may have been problems with implementation. Take a look at where you are

Planning isn’t just about setting targets for the new year. Planning is about focus. And now, focus is more important than ever.

Think Small
We've helped hundreds of agencies with their strategic planning and there is one thing their plans have all had in common. They are b i g. In fact, we encourage big. We encourage people to think big about their businesses – their mission, their marketplace, their goals. But sometimes the result is a plan that is impossible to implement. There are so many moving parts. Too many things have to go well. And often, too few people are accountable for achieving the results. So even when you get off to a strong start, as things get tough, the tough don’t get going. They get distracted – or redirected – or refocused – or unfocused.

As we get ready for the fourth year in a down cycle that is being called either a recession or a depression, depending on who’s doing the calling, and the umpteenth year in a soft market cycle that might be starting to harden, we suggest you simplify your plan to simplify your life.

As you prepare your plan for 2012, be sure you take a good look at all the things you’re doing well – and not so well. It’s not too late to adjust your plan.

Start with a close look at 2011 resultss. ‘But I already did that,’ you say. Take another look. Review both tangible and intangible results.

  • Look at the results of planned activities. Were they what you expected? If not, why not? What did you plan to do that you never got around to? Why?
  • Look at results of un-planned activities. What did you work on that wasn’t planned? Were the results of those activities positive or negative? Why?
    Notice the “Why?” at the end of each question. Pay close attention to the underlying reasons for success or failure. And be honest. You can’t change what you don’t own.
  • Look at the numbers.
    • Go beyond the top line to understand whether revenues (+/-) are driven by number of clients or revenue per account.
    • Look at new business in terms of “net new.” And understand the real reasons why business is lost.
    • Look at expenses (+/-) in absolute terms not just as a function of revenue.

Now take another look at your 2012 plan. How well does it solve the problems of this past year? And how big is it? Can you and your team implement all the changes you’ve incorporated?

Do Two
Another favorite quote is attributed to Albert Einstein. He defined insanity as “doing the same thing over again but expecting a different result.” If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you got. So, re-evaluate your plans for 2012 in terms of quality rather than quantity. Trying to do more, often with less, is likely to be a depressing proposition (no pun intended).

Our advice for 2012 is to focus on two things that will make the biggest difference. Just two. The key is to focus your energy and your resources and your team on achieving these two critical objectives. Here are a few tips for success (and some caveats).

  • Smaller is better. Not necessarily smaller in terms of results, but smaller in terms of focus. If “increased revenue” is your goal, which revenue will you focus on? New revenue? Renewal revenue retention? New programs? Make sure your goals are specific.
  • Look for the biggest bang for your buck. You’re not looking for the easiest or quickest “two” but the “two” that will make the biggest positive difference in your overall position. You’ll also want to focus on those things that will position you for future growth. In a disastrous economy you might be satisfied to “hold your own.” But for the (shorter) long term, if you’re not growing, you’re falling behind.
  • Plan what not to do. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. You may find it helpful to select your “two” using the process of elimination. Separate the “nice-to-haves” from the “must-haves” and save them for another time. And then make sure you don’t allocate time ad energy worrying about those things that are not one of the “twos.”
  • Plan for “how” and “who.” Make sure that there is a reasonable—feasible—way to achieve your goal. Break it down into “how many” and “how much” and “by when.” And make sure that action plans don’t all depend on you, or on too few others.
  • Plan for accountability. Ensure that you and your team know how results will be measured and how often. You should also understand the consequences—both good and bad—if results are not met.
  • Stay strategic. Narrowing the focus may feel more tactical than strategic so be sure you don’t get so bogged down in the details that you lose sight of your overall mission. Make sure that your focused “two” and the action plans to achieve them aren’t going to create future problems.
  • Assume no significant changes in the economy or the industry. It’s an election year and the hype will just get more hyped. Even if there is good news, the effect on the insurancy buyer is not likely to have much impact. And while there is talk of tightening prices in the face of lower industry profits, competition for business isn’t going to go away.

Think two is too few?
Well, nail those two and then do two more. There is a compounding effect when you and your team succeed. You not only achieve your goal but you build momentum for the next achievement.

 

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