“Work the Plan” — a Mantra for Every Business Owner
Working the plan is the perfect blend of strategy and execution (two of the four key areas we cover in our Growth system).
The plan itself? It starts with your strategy. The plan is borne from you taking a 30,000 foot view, deciding what you want 10 years, 3 years, 1 year from now. The details of the plan are your roadmap for getting there—what do you need to do in order to get what you want?.
Working the plan? That’s being in the weeds of day-in, day-out execution. That’s where discipline, accountability, and persistence come into play.
(Especially if you’re an entrepreneur. Because there isn’t just one plan you can follow. There are many ways to win in business, but deciding on your plan, and sticking to it, is critical if you want to succeed. Otherwise, you’re that visionary who drags their time on a wild goose chase around your imagination, constantly “pivoting” from one great idea to the next. Beware of using the term “pivot” when you really mean “chasing shiny objects.”)
Working the plan can help you learn a new skill, run a marathon, land your next client, and grow a company.
For some leadership teams, this idea is, honestly old news. If you’re routinely using a goal-setting system like OKRs—and nailing it more than 80% of the time—you’re already working the plan.
Other teams can’t afford to take this concept for granted. I spent 20+ years running a company primarily comprised of college students. Those kids are great, but they aren’t working the plan unless you tell them exactly what that means. They don’t even know they need a plan until you spell it out for them.
If you don’t have a goal-setting system (aka a plan), don’t shortcut this step. It’s not enough to hold it in your mind. You need to define your goals, document your plan, and get everyone to agree that yes, these are the things you will commit to doing for the next 30, 60, 90 days to get there.
So…do you work the plan come hell or high water? The answer is: mostly, yes.
Also know that you are pretty likely to blow it. Planning is a skill and you need to build it.
But even if you’re off course, try to stick to the plan for an entire year. Otherwise, it’s not an annual plan; you’re just setting new goals and moving the target on a quarterly basis.
(Caveat: in many planning systems, including ours, you can change your annual plan exactly once: at your Q2 quarterly meeting)
You’ll get better at this faster than you think. By the second year of working with us, most of our clients have an annual plan that needs few, if any, radical changes.
What if my plan isn’t working?
How long do you stick it out on principle? And when is it time to change your plan or “pivot” to something else?
My rule of thumb: stick to any plan you have for 90 days unless it’s painful and terribly wrong.
If it’s taking you to financial ruin, don’t stick with it.
If you’re about to go out of business, don’t make that investment.
If you know that person is awful, don’t commit to keeping them for the rest of the quarter.
But check yourself before you lead your team down a different path—or before you let them lead you.
Sometimes an unchecked CEO can cause the company to jump ship on their plan unnecessarily. Other times, teams get skittish and decide to switch due to nerves and lack of discipline.
If you are falling short of your goal with the tactics you selected, stick it out for 90 days. You will learn a LOT.
Remember that your litmus test for how fast something should work may well be too short. You need some quick wins that will bring immediate results (and cash), but you also need longer term plays that take significant time and have a lengthier horizon on return than you might think.
Bottom line: If you have a plan and took the time to intentionally put it together, it’s usually right (at least 80% right, which really is good enough).
Want to get better at planning? That’s one of the biggest value-adds our consulting team provides to companies. If you want to learn how we can help you build—and work—your plan, reach out to us today.