leadership

10 Point Recipe for Success

Leading in a volatile environment we think being fast, bold and innovative is what drives success.  This week I’ve been reading "Great by Choice" (Jim Collins & Morton Hansen) and interestingly, the evidence suggests otherwise. 

Instead of innovation & agility, the research shows that a consistent and methodical application of a proven recipe is what drives success – not fast paced innovation & entrepreneurship.

The only way to remain great is to keep on applying the fundamental principles that made you great.
— Jim Collins

A dose of SMaC

Collins & Hansen encourage us to define and implement a SMaC recipe - a specific, methodical and consistent set of ingredients, practices or principles.  They don't have to be bold, they don't have to be sexy.  In fact, when doing this exercise myself, I found that my 10 point recipe was actually quite 'pedestrian'. There were no super human efforts required, no super powers or clairvoyance.  Just a set of activities which come quite naturally (to me at least).  It gave me a greater sense of certainty and a simple framework for how I plan to move ahead.

What's your recipe for success?

My challenge to you this week is to spend 15min on defining your own SMaC recipe.  Think about what has driven your success to date and list the 10 things you attribute that to. 

  • Are you still doing them now? 
  • Have you embedded them into your organisation? 
  • Do your team and partners know and understand the recipe?
  • Do you have a rhythm for their implementation on a day to day basis?

As someone who loves entrepreneurship and innovation, repeating the same things day in day out can seem a little mundane...but then again it's sometimes nice to have a little more predictability in my day too.  The challenge is to hold myself accountable and keep chipping away at the small things that make a big difference.

A Business Plan Isn’t About the Document

Most organisations I’ve worked in and worked with, begrudge business planning.  Not because they don’t know how, but because it didn’t add a lot of value last time they did it.

But why doesn’t it add value?  The problem lies in the lack of direction it contains and how it’s used once it’s created.

The value of a map comes from the direction you take from it
— Matthew Dunstan

Instead of a document, we need a roadmap.  Something that guides the evolution of the business, gives us concrete milestones and acts as a filter for every day decisions and actions.

To cross an ocean, you need waypoints

When we crossed the Atlantic, we didn’t just point the boat east and start sailing.  We planned a route with a number of major waypoints along the way. Even when circumstances would force us off course, the overall plan still held true.  Our goal was clear.  Our route, chosen for all the right reasons, was still valid. Our waypoints still gave us a short term focus, helping us break the endeavour down into manageable pieces.

The best business plan is one you can draw

I believe business plans need this same approach.  A destination, a broad plan describing how you’re going to get there and a series of waypoints to guide you day to day.  You can document this in a number of ways, but my favourite is to show it in a Gantt chart or flow chart format.  It allows you to capture the direction, strategy and sequence on a single page that is easy to communicate and review.

[we’re running a Business Planning Masterclass in July to help leaders and entrepreneurs craft better business plans]

Best use of a business plan

Of course crafting the plan is just the start.  Nothing happens without execution and this is the second challenge for business plans and those responsible for them.  

Instead of regarding it as a job done, the business plan should drive the agenda of your management meetings.  To illustrate, here’s a sample of a standing management meeting agenda I use with clients.  We start every management meeting with these 3 items:

  1. Touch base with the overall plan

    • Where we’re headed & why we care (vision, mission, goals)

    • Our plan to get there (strategy, roadmap, & immediate milestones)

  2. Progress against the immediate milestone

    • Report on action items from each stakeholder

  3. New opportunities or threats to the business.

    • Validate against the plan

The shiny-ball filter

Starting the meeting ‘with the end in mind’ (Covey), is a great way to keep everyone on the same page and most importantly, align the actions and initiatives of the team to your plan for the business.  It helps keep the focus at a strategic level and acts as a useful filter against which you can review actions, ideas and opportunities:

  • If they contribute to or accelerate the plan, they’re in.
  • If they relate to a milestone further down the track, they’re parked.
  • If they’re not aligned to the plan, they’re out.

[Further reading: Entrepreneur’s Shiny Ball Syndrome]

With a clear direction and roadmap a business plan can act as a valuable tool guiding the day to day operations of the business.  So dust it off, reduce it to a flow chart and get it onto the management meeting agenda. 

Strategic oversight and consistent implementation will focus your resources and drive your business faster than anything else.


[Rising Tide Ventures will be holding a series of Business Planning Masterclasses during July.  You can find out more or register here]