I know. The topic for this article reads from a Terminator movie but I can assure you these two ‘project management’ principles, when applied effectively, can breathe life into your business strategy.
Briefly re-capping, my first article outlined how the overriding principles of project management (often associated with big developments) can be easily adapted to help any business owner. The system’s four phases of concept, planning, execution and termination provide a useful framework that can help keep your strategic business plan on track.
If your goals include starting a business, expanding operations, improving efficiency, becoming more profitable, increasing turnover or broadening your client base, adopting the four-phase framework will add greater value if each stage is considered a separate project and managed as such.
The second article covered the important early stages of concept and planning, where particular areas needing attention are detected to help ensure each part of your business is working towards a common goal. In a business sense, this is establishing your strategic plan.
Execution and termination represent the other half of the process and will ultimately determine the level and quality of any results or outcomes achieved.
During execution of your strategic plan it will be important to identify each of the key steps required. These steps need to be undertaken in chronological order and allocated to a person to complete within the desired time frame.
Further, you will need to provide accountability to ensure each step is satisfactorily completed. This accountability could come from an advisory board (this is something I use in my business), a business advisory consultant (who I also engage), or depending on the size of your business, other directors through board meetings or management meetings.
Alternatively, if you are very disciplined, you can keep yourself accountable. This however is often very challenging for someone busy running a business which is why I recommend using some form of external reinforcement along the way.
Holding regular meetings allow people to demonstrate they have completed their tasks or explain why they may need more time. It’s good to schedule them far enough apart to provide sufficient time to make significant inroads, but not so far apart that nothing gets done with the issue failing to be brought to someone’s attention. Three months would be a good place to start however, if you are experiencing a lot of change, more frequent meetings may better suit your business’s trajectory.
Regularly planned meetings not only hold people to account but allow them to recognise progress in a supportive forum that can also acknowledge achievements and help ‘celebrate the wins’.
Once you are nearing the end of your strategic plan the final phase of termination begins. When adapting these principles to business, rather than terminate (as you would with a big development) it is better to consider it as a ‘review’ that will lead to further improvement.
In a business context, this step should be an opportunity to evaluate all outcomes of the previous stages. The review identifies all factors that worked, and more importantly, those that didn’t allowing you to clearly improve on those failures and also to leverage any wins. A disappointment can actually provide the perfect opportunity to learn so much which, in turn, then introduces a productive change you may not have considered otherwise. Once your thorough review is completed the cycle can begin all over again.
These four simple ‘project management’ stages of concept, planning, execution and review (termination) can provide a very solid plan for running a business. Collectively the principles help drive continuous improvement and allow you to achieve your goals through a considered, staged and managed approach.
In my experience, the time spent planning, setting a clear direction, reviewing the outcomes and then restarting the whole process has resulted in significant and ongoing benefits for my business and those I assist.
Stephen Barr is a registered surveyor, certified practicing planner and owner of Barr Property & Planning. He has been involved in the development industry for more than 20 years and works with clients to combine strategic thinking with practical planning advice and development expertise.
With a background in surveying, Stephen understands the implications of crucial decisions that are made from the planning stage through to a project's final delivery. He is a former Chairman of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) - Hunter Chapter, serves on Compass Housing's state committee and is a member of the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA).