In a small or medium-sized business, it’s common to be the only one making decisions about every aspect of your company—thus the saying, “it’s lonely at the top.” No matter how large or small your business is, being the sole decision-maker for the company can be difficult and may impede your company’s success. It can become challenging for one person to constantly think of better ways to improve the business or make sure he or she has the most innovative ideas. Having the contributions of a planning team will help your company grow and become more successful, and should be an essential part of your strategic business plan.
Planning teams are comprised of your company’s top executives from each of your functional departments. The goal of the planning team is to have candid discussion on all business planning and action items essential to moving your company forward—from resources to operations to company strategy. Our corporate planning team follows the Strategic Business Leadership® (SBL) process and has experienced great success utilizing it. SBL provides a structured and organized framework for your team to productively discuss and plan the strategic direction of the company. Remember: always make sure your planning team stays in alignment with the owner’s personal and business vision.
Once you decide to implement a planning team, it is imperative to have established guidelines before the first meeting and to continue to follow these guidelines at each meeting. Reviewing them before meetings will help keep your planning team focused on the group goals. For example, we use “TABenos” as our communication guideline. TABenos represents communication defined by honesty, respect, trust and openness with yourself and the other planning team members. This specific guideline enables each member of the team to experience an environment conducive to idea sharing and exchange.
Here are a few simple guidelines to keep in mind when forming your planning team:
- Stay focused on the main issues
- Avoid solving/micro-managing
- Avoid interruption as much as possible
- Inform the employees who are not on the planning team about plans and progress, as well as the necessity and importance of having planning team meetings
- Never cancel your planning team meetings unless absolutely necessary
- Meet as frequently as you can. Our team meets weekly, but at a minimum, you should meet once a month.If you can’t meet on a monthly basis, you should always schedule meetings, at the very least, once per quarter
- Occasionally invite other project managers to the meetings to update the planning team on various projects, as necessary. This gives team members a sense of contribution in the company.
To ensure each planning team meeting is productive and time-efficient, revisit the rules and guidelines often. Also, spend time with individual planning team members to make sure they understand the value of a planning team and how their individual contributions help to foster a positive planning team experience. When conducted effectively, a planning team can be and should be inspiring and liberating for the business owner and team members.
Jason Zickerman is President and CEO of The Alternative Board.