Maintaining velocity requires continuously evolving our flight plan. ~ Defy Gravity
Pilots continuously monitor their flights, making small changes as needed to optimize their route. We can leverage the same approach in business, continuously streamlining and evolving our plans to achieve sustainable growth.
But how do we continuously update and evolve? Won’t it take too long and be too resource intensive if we constantly review our value and market, our gravity and course? We need to focus on the business, not constant planning.
Those are all valid comments. They’re also based on the way we’ve always done it. When we change the way we think about change, these protests become moot.
Shift like a Pilot
Evolving our plan doesn’t have to mean the Big Bang. That’s not helpful – unless you’re ready to crash and burn. Then a drastic change may be just what you need. My point is that we can adapt successfully with continuous, smaller adjustments.
Following are a couple of planning tools that I suggest to clients. In Defy Gravity, I devote two chapters to this subject. But for this post, I’ll try to keep it short and sweet.
Pilots rely on waypoints to know where they are in relation to their original plan and to know when they need to change course for an optimum flight. Pilots use trimtabs to optimize and streamline their flight. Trim tabs allow for a steady, stable flight, even when changes occur in course, airspeed, wind speed or any other environmental shift.
Businesses can use way points and trim tabs too. These simple tools can shift an entire planning process into a dynamic, continuously evolving map to success. Here’s how.
Waypoints – the Milestones to Success
Businesses can use waypoints to proactively and continuously monitor our progress. Waypoints are real-world, achievable measurements of small incremental progress toward your destination that are much more detailed than our traditional quarterly or bi-annual goals. Waypoints act as your milestones of successful progress. Whenever you miss one of these way points, you need to sit back and re-examine your beliefs and probably realign your plan.
Examples of way points include:
- Company value waypoints focus on any changes you must make at the company level. These waypoints include soft external markers, such as audience awareness and brand recognition, and internal markers related to organizational evolution, financial results and growth.
- Product value waypoints include both the planning milestones for evolving your value within each market and the results milestones to show that you’re profitably selling each product as expected.
- Market value waypoints help you keep an eye on your market power as it builds (or doesn’t) in each target segment. I use a simple waypoint measurement for clients: the number of customers willing to provide referrals and case studies for my client. If we’re doing a good job, clients will help us through referrals, quotes and full-blown case studies. Yes, I know, customers won’t let us use their company name. That’s okay. If they’ll do a blind case study—no names and camouflaged for privacy—that’s almost as good. My point is, if you aren’t increasing your market power by gather- ing more supporters along your course, something isn’t working as well as it could.
When you find discrepancies in your waypoints, it’s time to adjust your plan. That’s the time to use trim tabs to realign for success.
Trimtabs – the Stablizers of Your Business Success
The combination of waypoints and trim tabs empowers us to adjust our business course in real-time based on the dynamics in our markets. Like waypoints, trim tabs vary from business to business based on the specifics of the situation. Trim tabs come in a variety of forms; all are focused on small, incremental changes in a continuous fashion versus waiting for the next Big Bang adjustment as in traditional planning. Trimtabs give us immediate, actionable shifts that can and will realign us with our goal (or keep us from wasting more resources if we can’t reach that goal.)
For example, if we miss our product value waypoint for a new capability that’s required in a market, trim tab options would include:
- Assign extra resources to speed that value on its way. This means we have to realign the activity those resources were previously assigned to. But it beats the usual option of hoping we’ll catch up and then falling farther behind. If this waypoint is critical to multiple target markets it’s better to resolve the issue with small changes in resources than waiting until we need to take a more significant action.
- Replan for the next waypoint, shifting that requirement to a future delivery. If it’s not a critical capability or it’s in a non critical market, we can wait a bit and see how things flow. We simply need to set our way- points so that we watch that delivery carefully for any further slips.
- Hire more resources to get us back on track. If we don’t have any spare resources and this is a critical value for our success, we must find a way to solve the delay or we risk our plan. That may mean shifting budget earlier into our plan or taking budget from another, less critical project for the short term.
Trim tabs are defined in a dynamic way based on your progress against your waypoints. When you see a fluctuation—either positive or negative—in your progress against your plan, it’s time to review trim tab options. If you have 2-3 options planned for both upsides and downsides in your waypoint measurements – you can adapt quickly and keep on flying toward your business growth!
Don’t get yourself into a time-sucking ordeal as you create waypoints and trimtabs. Keep them simple. The idea is to be nimble and ready to shift at the first sign of trouble or a new opportunity.
The Bottom Line
Our goal is to find the most profitable course in the most effective way, not to stay on your current course no matter what happens. By adding waypoints and trim tab options to our planning process – we add a realtime, ongoing method of monitoring and adapting our plans.
When we review changes in our markets and our progress as we move through our plan, we become more dynamic in our forward progress, creating additional momentum, or gathering lost momentum, based on what’s happening in real-time in our world. That’s the critical shift to success in today’s uncertain and changing markets.
Think about it.
Wouldn’t it be better to face that problem or shortfall and shift now – instead of at that plan review meeting in four months?
Better yet – What reward will you reap by taking advantage of that new opportunity or accelerated result four months ahead of your next planning meeting?