Taking Action

The critical mass in the planning sequence (values, goals, action, and revision) is taking action. How often is this part of the sequence thwarted? As we know from experience, rarely do things go as planned. Yet this phase of the planning sequence is where the plan proves successful or requires revision. Something unexpected happens. The communication is flawed and the execution of the action is wrong. The consequence of the action is not what was forecast. But we owe it to the plan to do the execution of the plan as well as possible. Executing the plan as well as possible gives us the opportunity to ask, “What went wrong?” The revised plan improving the chance of realizing the business goals.

After articulating values and setting goals - extremely hard work - how do we honor that commitment by carrying out actions to support the goals? The action plan – the process of determining the acts to be done to reach the goals – as with the setting of the goals – should be the product of group decision-making. Much of this starts with the productive and operational elements of the business understanding and being motivated by the goals.

Often we see managers simply telling producers and operational personnel what action to take without stating what goals are to be attained. When this happens, changes are often viewed as simply more work without apparent reason and regarded as unnecessary. Where productive and operational personnel know the goals, the deficiencies of contemplated action apparent to them but not so apparent to policymakers can be identified and corrections made a part of the action plan. Ideally, personnel from operations and production should be a part of the decision-making group. It is often the person who carries out the action who can see a defect in the action plan others do not see.

The method or format of communication of the goals to the group creating the action plan is important. It should support a dialogue where the operating and producing functions become aware of the goal and then participate in the formulation of the action to be taken. The statement of the action to be taken should relate to realizing the relevant goal. Therefore, the format of the plan should communicate the goal, the proposed action, and the recipients' comments. Where the business plan format is dynamic, the communication is interactive and the entire process is communicated. This is important with the action plan and even more important in the revision plan process.

In earlier sessions we covered articulating values and setting goals. In this session, we discussed the action plan. When things go in an unexpected or inappropriate way, we are then in the revision stage. More about that next session.

As we look at the stages of planning, the importance of communicating through a dynamic format is apparent. The dynamic format, be it a simple spreadsheet or a sophisticated platform of group interaction software such as Teams, supports interactive communication and documents communication for all involved to see. With a dynamic format used correctly, the planning process can render quality decisions resulting in actions realizing the goals of the business.

From Writing Values to Agreeing Upon Goals

As difficult as it is to write out your values, it is also difficult to write goals from values. A goal will be a statement of where a business should be after the application of efforts toward the manifesting of the values statement. The hard work of writing a values statement is the basis for setting meaningful goals.

A values statement should not simply state core values such as honesty, loyalty, and determination, it should provide a practical description of the manifestation of those and other core values. With this values statement, the goals deriving from it should be practical and achievable providing a vision of what could be accomplished.

It helps to have an example. Because I have a core value of accomplishing the transferring of value owned by me in the business from business risk to lower personal investment risk, I will articulate to my co-owners, that I want to maximize the value of the business and actively work to sell the business within the next three years. This is another way of saying that I do not want to be an owner of the business after three years. A stated business goal resulting from this values statement could be the accomplishment of specific acts leading to selling the business. Another goal might be to retain earnings in the business to increase its value and interest to prospective buyers.

Why Knowing and Articulating Values is Essential to Good Decision-Making

Business owners making policy decisions are attempting to realize and experience a value proposition. Owners decide between options based on a perspective of personal values. Most business owners have not spent time thinking about their personal value systems. It is difficult to evaluate the soundness of a decision if the value system it is to support and enforce is not clearly understood.

Even if owners have not defined or articulated their values, owners will have a sense of what their values are. Decisions that conflict with personal values will not seem right and not be satisfying. These emotional reactions to conflict between values and decisions over time can create an accumulating tension leading to emotional acts. These emotions often create disputes among owners. Not only is it important to take the time to define a personal value system, but it is also important to do the work of articulating these values to other owners as a part of the decision-making process.