So before you step into this great unknown, ask yourself: Am I willing – and able – to truly listen to, engage with, and include employees in planning the future of the business?
If you’re not yet ready to take that step, consider giving employees control of smaller projects to test their abilities – and your blood pressure.
If you’re ready, read on – because we’ve put together some ideas that just might help you. Adapt them to suit your business and where you want to lead it.
Talk their language
Make sure you’re talking a language everyone understands. ‘Synergistic ideation’ may sound smart but ‘talking about new ideas’ is much more likely to engage people. Keep an open door policy where employees feel able to come and ask for explanations to terms and concepts they don’t yet understand. Be patient. Encourage managers to follow your example.
Business planning can be loosely divided into four steps:
- Where are we now?
- Where could we be?
- Where do we want to be?
- How do we get there?
Create a list of points for consideration and ask each business area to discuss and write answers. Allow time for everyone to get involved.
1. Where are we now?
The first step is to know exactly where the business currently stands. Below are some considerations:
- Values are the things that are most important to the business. Everything that anyone in the business does and says needs to uphold the values of the business.
- Determine – how is the business currently viewed by employees? By customers? By competitors?
- Remember you don’t have to share financial items with employees, but be honest with yourself.
Products and services
- What are our products and/or services.
- What is the income and expenditure of each? Include wages, stationary, raw materials, marketing etc.
- What are the pros and cons of each product or service?
- What are the growth opportunities?
- What are the external threats e.g. slowly economy, new competitors?
- What are our physical resources e.g. buildings, equipment, technology?
Knowledge and skills:
- What knowledge and skills do we have – whether we are currently using them or not?
2. Where could we be?
Using the same headings as above, ask each area to consider the options available. For example:
- What values could we have?
- What products and services could we offer? What are the pros and cons of each? What are the growth opportunities? What are the external threats?
- What could be the costs and profit associated with each product?
- What equipment could we buy? How would that impact the business?
- What knowledge and skills could we develop? How would that impact the business?
Ask each area to present their findings by:
- Presenting at a business-wide meeting or
- Compiling a report everyone can read.
- Consider giving employees a section a week so they aren’t overwhelmed. Use lots of headings and dot points or putting the information on a communal noticeboard and allow people to add comments.
3. Where do we want to be?
- Just because you can provide a certain product or service doesn’t mean you want to. So, using all the information you’ve gathered, collectively consider where you want to be.
- What are the pros and cons of each option?
- Give each area time to read and discuss the reports about other areas. Ask them to make notes of their comments and ideas.
- Depending on the size of your business, you may choose to meet with an area representative or all employees to make the final decisions.
4. How do we get there?
One of the major pitfalls of business planning is to create a brilliant overview without getting into the day-to-day detail. Every employee is involved in the success of the business and they need to understand exactly what it is they do each day that helps the business meet its goals. Gather up all of the information you have so far and, knowing where you want to be, consider:
- What knowledge, skills and equipment would we need?
- Should we outsource or develop these in-house?
- How much would this cost?
- What phases could we have?
- What would our milestones be?
- How will we measure success?
5. Develop plans for each area of the business
Once you’ve decided your values and the products/services and the money available, ask each area to develop a plan for their part. They will need to ask:
- What are our tasks, who will do them and to what standard?
- What knowledge and skills can we teach other teams?
- What knowledge and skills can other teams teach us?
- What formal training do we need?
- What is our timeline?
- What is our budget?
- What could go wrong?
- What can we do to eliminate risks and minimise losses?
7. Develop the overall plan
Put all the plans together into one overall plan. Depending on the size of your business, this can be done collectively or with a representative from each area. Once the overall plan is complete adjust area plans as necessary.
8. Work the plan
Once the planning work is complete, each area can begin working their plan. They will need to keep to budgets and deadlines, constantly monitor their progress and report back. Everything won’t go to plan, but if everyone is monitoring their own schedules, communicating and supporting each other, minor alterations won’t spell disaster.
Business planning can be a difficult process. It can also be an experience that brings everyone together to build determination and collaboration. These are just some ideas on how you might involve your employees in your business planning process. Do you have others?