Plan and Act…Assess and Adjust

Plan 2“Stick to the plan. If it’s not working, change the plan.” — Anonymous

Whoever said this must have been an excellent leader and planner. Today the words “strategic planning” have become commonplace. Most organizations we work with, whether B-to-B, B-to-C or non-profit, have done some sort of strategic plan in the past few years.

At Marketing Matters, when we plan for a client, we start with a comprehensive situational analysis, including in-depth competitive audit and SWOT internal/external assessment. We include a review and/or refinement of the brand strategy statement, including mission, vision, values and positioning. We help clients establish organizational/business goals and identify strategies to achieve these goals. Depending on the category, the plan may be short in scope, say 1 year, or it may be longer term looking 5 years out.

The value-add of a good plan, to put it metaphorically, is to get everyone into the boat and rowing in the same direction. A good plan will include all stakeholders, inspiring them to work together to achieve stated goals. A good plan will unify effort and provide common language, leading to increased engagement, efficiency and effectiveness.

Unfortunately, many plans end as plans, not as actions. The most critical next step – the Action Plan – often gets left in the dust. The Action Plan is the “who-what-when-where-how” – who does what, when they do it, where is it done, how will it best achieve goals. Also, it must include benchmarks to determine if the plan is working. It’s where thinking becomes action, and the “rubber” of planning meets the “road” of actually doing business.

We research and gather data; we think and analyze and plan; and we act. But no matter how good the plan, we are working in real time in what is often an unpredictable environment. In today’s fast moving world, committing to a plan must include the willingness to constantly assess and tweak and shift direction as challenges and changes arise. Keep an eye on the measurables. Pay careful attention to benchmarks. As some smart leader once said, “Stick to the plan. If it’s not working, change the plan.”

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