Thank you for joining me again for this month’s installment of Build it Better. This month, we continue our series on “Continuous Improvement.” Working with the concepts I introduced in the prior two columns, I am now turning to a practical, monthly process that I use to keep my company and my teams pushing forward. So far, the series has been more conceptual than workable, and it’s important to turn those ideals into a practical blueprint for creating change in your organization.
Change requires vision. Even the most rudimentary change is rooted in some vision of what isn’t right, or some ideal, stated or unstated, that you want to achieve. Business literature and popular business press idealize vision as some high-minded process that only the greatest among us get right. Elon Musk wants to ensure the survival of the human species. How can we compete with that? Vision is simply a statement of commitment to a better way. Any practical change in your organization must start with a vision for the department or individual that you are seeking to change.
Start with what you already know. Chances are you know what improvements you’d like to see or plans you’d like to execute. It is important to make this process collaborative with the people or departments you are making a vision plan with. This process only works when your people feel empowered and that empowerment starts with involving everyone in the process from day one. Making a vision plan is accomplished over the course of a few meetings.
STEP 1: VISION BRAINSTORMING
You likely have an idea of the direction you’d like the department or individual’s vision plan to go but you must resist the urge to “tell” or “be prescriptive” during this part of the process. To get to a particular outcome, ask open-ended questions that guide your team there. They need to believe in their vision and that only comes from having a pivotal role in the creative process. Don’t expect to come to a “perfect” vision in a single meeting. This can take some time. Document these ideas and brainstorm. Much of what you come up with in this step becomes the Goals, Strategies and Tactics that you’ll need to execute on the vision later on.
STEP 2: REFINING THE VISION
Step 1 finds the direction you want to go, step two makes this vision concrete. These sessions should now be going from a broad set of ideas to a narrow focus. A workable vision must be time-bound and measurable. Simply “wanting to get better” is not a vision. Some of you may notice the similarity here with SMART — Simple, Manageable, Achievable, Relevant, Timebound — goals. You’d be right. A “vision” in this process is very similar. A sales team may want to “double the number of spec’s we have in 12 months.” A customer service team may want to “ensure all new hires are experts on 75% of lines within their first 12 months of hire.” This is the hard part. You will have to push, coach and nurture to turn ideas into time-bound and measurable visions. The Vision is where you want to be.
Change requires vision. Even the most rudimentary change is rooted in some vision of what isn’t right, or some ideal, stated or unstated, that you want to achieve.
STEP 3: ADDING GOALS, STRATEGIES AND TACTICS
So, now you and your team have refined the vision and through that process should have notes, fragments, and ideas left over from the process. These are a basis for the goals, strategies and tactics of your Vision Plan. Those goals and strategies are the roadmap to completing your vision. The tactics are the shortest-term action items needed to complete the Vision. Goals should be SMART and answer the question: “What will you need to do to accomplish your vision.” Strategies are more broad-based and outline the general approach that you will take. The strategies will be how you accomplish your goals and vision. Tactics are action items; the specific actions assigned to specific people with concrete deadlines. Tactics are fluid. As you complete tactics and begin working on strategies, new tactics will be necessary. Tactics are your “to-do” list.
What you end up with after completing this visioning process is a concrete plan for improvement. Here are a few examples:
The vision for this project is to create a Central nervous system of the rep firm by streamlining department processes by 80% by 2023. Our goals are to first: Identify all cross department processes. Second: Develop and document formal processes for all identified cross-department processes. Third: Develop and maintain these processes in a centralized server accessible to all. In order to accomplish this, we will utilize the strategies of interviewing and working alongside members of each department, establish a method of communication for new and changed processes and work to utilize our current tech stack to its full potential.
The vision for the marketing department this year is to create marketing assets and pitch decks for those manufacturers lacking appropriate marketing materials. The goals are to complete a pitch deck PowerPoint presentation template, complete decks for five manufacturers and at least four additional marketing assets for each of those manufacturers. To accomplish these goals we will work with the sales team to develop a pitch deck outline that meets their needs, work with sales to identify manufacturers that are both missing sales assets and that would represent the largest ROI.
I hope you have found this practical guide to creating a vision plan helpful and actionable. Lofty concepts about “building it better” and “improving every day” are great, but those concepts fall apart without concrete plans to actually get it done. Next month, I stick with the practical application and go through how to implement these vision plans with your team. If you get a chance to implement any of the actions above, send me a message and let me know how it goes. Drop me a line at www.linkedin.com/in/CharlieParham