For many business leaders and their teams, the month of August is an essential time for them to assess how the first half of the year went. Are the current strategies that they have in place really working? It’s also a time to set (or reset) their goals and objectives for the upcoming year.
Keeping all that in mind sometimes plans, unfortunately, fall by the wayside or may require some unexpected tweaking depending on external factors like market conditions, customer needs, or technological innovation. That’s why it’s important to remain flexible and have an open mind about how to pivot correctly when necessary, considering the current situation of your department or organization.
Here, 16 Fast Company Executive Board members offer their solutions to help other business leaders and teams stay focused even when their initial plans begin to get sidetracked or fail altogether.
1. REVISIT YOUR COMPANY’S CORE PURPOSE AND VALUES REGULARLY.
One tip that has helped me and my team maintain focus is to regularly revisit our core purpose and values. By reconnecting with our underlying mission, we regain clarity and recommit ourselves to the larger purpose that drives us forward. This realignment helps us navigate unexpected challenges, adapt to changes, and make decisions that align with our overarching goals. – Jason Wojahn, Thirdera
2. RECOGNIZE THAT PLANS MAY NEED TO CHANGE.
Focus on growth. When we think about our wins and the strategies at work to get us there, we typically begin to focus more. It’s important to recognize that plans may need to change depending on external factors such as market conditions, customer needs, or technological innovation. Therefore, schedule regular check-ins with your team to review progress toward your goals and discuss any current challenges or obstacles that staff members are facing. Make the process interactive. – Brandon Pena, BrandON Media Group
3. COMMUNICATE VIA VIDEO AND IMPLEMENT PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS.
The key to staying on track is communication. Especially for remote and hybrid teams, it’s important to prioritize communication through video meetings, team chats, whiteboarding, or whatever methods work best for your team. Implementing productivity tools like Asana, which allows employees to assign tasks and set deadlines, is also helpful. – Reuben Yonatan, GetVoIP
4. UNDERSTAND YOUR SALES AND BUDGET CYCLES.
Understand your sales cycle and how long it takes from first touch to closed opportunity. Sometimes the end of summer is too late and you need to be thinking much further ahead. Understanding your budget cycle also plays a key role in determining what your next year’s initiatives are going to look like. Assess along the way and make tweaks throughout the year. I never recommend a year-long test. – Kristi Melani, Telesign
5. GIVE EMPLOYEES A ROLE IN REACHING TEAM OBJECTIVES AND GOALS.
To gear up for the fall, I rally my employees to ensure clarity on our upcoming objectives and goals. Giving each team member a designated role helps us take ownership and follow through with plans. Check-in meetings and weekly updates encourage accountability for these tasks and prevent them from falling to the back burner between end-of-summer events and ongoing workloads. – Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications
6. FOCUS ON THE LESSONS LEARNED FOR FUTURE ITERATIONS.
When initial plans begin to fail, it’s helpful to focus on what was learned and how it can be incorporated into future iterations. Alternatively, focusing only on what went wrong often leads to placing blame and rarely leads to insights. – Brandon Rigoni, Gallup
7. SET THE RIGHT OBJECTIVE.
Be sure that there is consensus on the entire leadership team around a singular business challenge or objective before you set out on annual strategic planning. Setting the right objective that is clear, measurable, reasonable, and time-based will guide the leaders of the organization in establishing key strategic action items that are designed to help reach the overarching objective. – Emily Howard, Cheetah Strategy
8. DEMONSTRATE AND COMMUNICATE YOUR OWN CONFIDENCE IN THE STRATEGY.
Be authentic and agile. It’s important to personally demonstrate your confidence in the strategy in every conversation. This is particularly critical with market fluctuations and rapidly evolving socioeconomic conditions when it’s tempting to swerve off course from the strategy to solve a short-term challenge. Be confident and committed and others will follow! – Eric Miquelon, Avanade
9. IMPLEMENT THE ‘START-STOP-CONTINUE’ EXERCISE.
Conduct the “Start-Stop-Continue” exercise. It is a simple and fun approach to assessing what is working and what is not. It allows rapid group-based feedback to assimilate into your overall goals and objectives. – Michael Cupps, ActiveOps
10. PREPARE THE TRAINING AND RESOURCES FOR DOUBTFUL STAFF MEMBERS.
Make reestablishing your business continuity part of discussions in all aspects. Have all the necessary training and resources ready to handle a sudden shift of gears, whether it’s a significant emergency or simple changes in staffing due to promotions or shortages. This type of planning gives everyone a place to refer to when in doubt and keeps internal conversations and connections going. – Larry Brinker Jr., BRINKER
11. CONSIDER AUTOMATION TO FREE UP MORE TIME FOR IMPORTANT TASKS.
If you are not hitting your benchmarks, investigate if there are software programs available to automate processes. This is one method to free up your team members’ time and allow them to focus on more important tasks. – Kelley Higney, Bug Bite Thing
12. ESTABLISH A ‘NORTH STAR’ OBJECTIVE TO GUIDE YOUR DECISION-MAKING.
Establish a “North Star” objective that guides all decision-making. If plans veer off track, realign by asking, “Does this action help us reach our North Star?” This simple, effective technique maintains focus and steers the team back on course toward achieving key goals. – Tony Martignetti, Inspired Purpose Coaching
13. SET QUARTER-SPECIFIC KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS.
Plan each quarter like it matters. Each quarter has unique lessons, unexpected disappointments, and surprising rewards. Our two-day quarterly planning is where we set quarter-specific KPIs, identify the short-term focus for our resources, and isolate long-term challenges that require long-term thinking. This keeps us from feeling like August is “planning purgatory.” – Stephanie Harris, PartnerCentric
14. BRAINSTORM INNOVATIVE IDEAS WITH YOUR TEAM.
Even the best-laid plans sometimes don’t work as intended. Before things move into crisis mode, take a step back, reassess the situation, and remind the team about your core objectives. Get feedback from team members and brainstorm innovative ideas. Always keep your eye on the prize even when situations are not in your favor. – Krishnan Venkata, LatentView Analytics Corporation
15. ENSURE CUSTOMERS ARE A PART OF THE REVIEW AND PLANNING PROCESS.
Make sure all of the pieces in your business get addressed. Sometimes setting new goals can be dominated by assessments of internal procedures, but ensuring the customers are part of the review and planning is vital. They must be given a voice in meetings through online engagement, touching on their wants and needs. – Abhilash Patel, Within Health
16. CONDUCT A ‘ONE THING’ EXERCISE.
Conduct a “one thing” exercise: What is the one thing the company needs to do this year to achieve its three- to five-year goal? What is the one thing the company needs to do this quarter to achieve that goal for the year? What is the one thing the company needs to do to achieve that goal for the quarter? What is the one thing each department needs to do to help the company achieve that goal for the quarter? – David Fossas, Staccato