Tis the season for planning! So, where are you with your planning for next year? Are goals set? Strategies in place?
Most importantly, did you address the two planning questions that will determine your success or failure?
To illustrate the importance of these questions, I want to introduce you to Jane, at ABC Tech. All too frequently I find myself across from Jane and her colleagues when they have not asked the critical planning questions, and they need help picking up the pieces.
ABC Tech provides outsourced IT management and support for small to medium sized businesses. Jane was one of the first employees, and has overseen Client Service since she joined. By all accounts she has done a brilliant job building this function of the company and her success has been key for the company’s growth. She had a team of 3 last year, and then added 1 new person this year. Business is booming and next year her team is slated to grow to 10.
Jane has worked with the CEO on a general plan for next year. She is being promoted to the new position of VP of Client Success and will retain direct responsibility over this team of 10, although she’s supposed to find a way not to have all 10 employees fully report to her. This is key because as VP she will have more of a role in the selling process with prospective clients. Jane is considering making 2 of her team members Team Leaders, or Associate Directors…it’s not clear yet. Jane is excited and plans to spend time over the holidays doing more planning: what titles to give the soon-to-be promoted team members, when to time the first new hires, possible sources for new hires, etc.
Is anything about this situations making you squirm? Let’s see how it plays out.
ABC Tech launches into the new year with more vigor and higher goals, but most of everything else is the same. New employees are brought on in the typical figure-it-out-as-you-go fashion. (After all, the top performers have done great with that approach, and who wants to get uptight and corporate and kill the great culture that’s present?) Jane’s two top performers are informally assigned other team members to oversee. (Why not? They’re rockstars at their job and great people – they’ll be great managers, for sure!)
Jane ends up helping little with selling because she’s bogged down managing. Most of the new hires are considered failures, largely because of their failure to learn through osmosis. Sales continue to boom, but few employees are really happy about it, because the service quality is substandard, clients are displeased, and the team is overworked..
By September everyone is wondering what happened to superstar Jane, including Jane herself. Seeing a top performer struggle, and new hires underperform has left the whole company feeling unsettled. “What in the world happened?” everyone wonders.
So, what did happen? Where did the unraveling begin?
Answering this requires going all the way back to the planning days. The team created projections. They set goals. They calculated additional hiring needs. But they never asked, “What needs to be different?” and “What does that require?”
Imagine the leaders at the table looking at their projections and growth goals, and asking these 2 questions: “In order to meet these goals, what will need to be different? What does that require?” What might have emerged?
What needs to be different? What does that require?
Let’s go back to you and your planning. In order to accomplish the goals in front of you, what needs to be different? And what does that require? Take time to really think about this. Be brave. Sometimes the answers have layers…dig down through them. These questions are great to engage others in exploring with you so that you don’t oversimplify or omit barriers that need to be addressed.
In addition to remembering these 2 questions for your own planning, look for moments to help colleagues and friends with their own planning by posing these questions to them. You’ll set the path for a great year for yourself, and play an important role in the success of others as well. Here’s to a stellar year!