Whether it’s your business growth plan, your change management plan or your project implementation plan, there are several recurring themes I experience and see on a frequent basis as to why plans continually fail.
My advice to you as you read through the article would be to carry out a Pre-Mortem. Not a Post-Mortem, a Pre-Mortem. Don’t wait until your plan fails. Do something about it now. Ideally do this before your plan launches, but even if you are mid implementation, carry it out now.
We have a free Master Plan Pre-Mortem we are sharing with manufacturing leaders with a progressive mindset at the end of the article. As you can probably guess, many of these recurring themes involve people.
Outlined below are my top 12 reasons as to why plans fail and a few pointers to help you navigate your way through the problems:
Your Team Are Not Aligned with Your Purpose: The people within your team need to be aligned with your purpose, your cause, your reason for existence. Plans big and small need a reason for existence, a why. Maybe you have not established what it is, or you are possibly not communicating it effectively. You need to be clear with your team what your organisation’s purpose is and align the hearts and minds of everyone with your reason for being. People with a sense of purpose, and a strong connection with their work will feel more fulfilled and motivated to achieve great things.
Your Team Are Not Aware of Your Company Values: A high performing team is built on a foundation of strong values. A shared set of behaviours that drive a positive culture within the team. Be clear about the behaviours you expect from people and the boundaries. Focus on the current behaviours of people and not on old thinking or past experiences. If you are a growing or changing business these behaviours and boundaries may need to be changed or reset for the new culture you are becoming. As well as the positive and supportive behaviours you need to display as a team, it is also useful to have the not acceptable behaviours too, to ensure clarity. Build the behaviours together. Not on your own in your office. The biggest failings I see here are either, a company has no values, or they have arbitrary words that nobody understands what they mean. And by they don’t understand what they mean, I mean if the value is ‘trust’, how should I behave? Be clear about behavioural expectations and hold people accountable to them.
You Don’t Deal with Underperformance: If you have people on your team who are under performing or incompetent, deal with it! Get the right people on the bus in the right seats and help them achieve the right level of competence for the role. Either invest in the people you’ve got to do the job, consider a move for them or change them. If your team are not competent in their roles, they will struggle to buy into the plan, mainly because they don’t have the skills to help you achieve it. It’s common in high growth businesses that the level of investment in growing the people is not at the same pace as growing the revenue. If you’re a high growth business, have clear development plans for your team to ensure they remain aligned with their future role in the business.
Roles and Responsibilities are Not Clear: The greatest contribution each of us make when we are part of a team is how we fulfill our role within it. And to achieve the optimum level of performance as a team we need clarity on our roles and responsibilities. If it is not clear what I am responsible for, how can I do it and how can you hold me accountable against it? Be clear about what each of your team are responsible for. I believe you can cover almost any role with just 5 clear responsibilities.
You Don’t Co-create Plans with Your Team: Setting plans in a darkened room without involving the people who will be implementing the plan is a big mistake. Your plans are probably far too informal and people don’t truly understand what is required. Involve people in decision making and allow them to be masters of their own destiny. People will own and take responsibility for what they create if you involve them. Have you ever heard an employee say, “we communicate too much here?” Get them involved.
You Lack Discipline: You will only achieve excellence with your plan when you have a culture built around discipline. You cannot maintain good standards without discipline. Self-discipline and team discipline are both important factors if you want to be successful. You need to lead by example and be disciplined yourself. Build your resilience by taking on the difficult challenges in front of you. Stop procrastinating and putting things off.
You Don’t Speak with Data: Move away from opinion based decision making and speak with data. Make your top priority needs as visual as possible for all to see. It will help your team to make the right decisions and take ownership when they can visibility see how they are performing against the key priorities. No more opinions, ask your team to evidence their opinions and ideas to help improve decision making. Speak with data, speak with data and speak with data.
You Don’t Have a Learning Culture: Be open to treating problems as opportunities to learn. Have a healthy relationship with failure and allow people to experiment and grow. At the core of a continuous improvement culture is an openness to learning; self learning, team learning and organisational learning. Allow people to fail and learn from their experiences. Let go of being the expert and allow people to grow.
You Don’t Give or Encourage Feedback: Provide your team with feedback and encourage feedback back to yourself as the norm. Create an open and honest environment where people can trust each other. How can we improve ourselves and our environment without feedback? Feedback should apply to all team members. Remove the hierarchies and create an open culture where people feel safe to share their thoughts and feelings. Tell people if they are doing a good job. Don’t just point out the things they get wrong.
People Are Not Reaching their Full Potential: Is potential part of your language when you reflect on your team’s performance? A big reason as to why people leave businesses is because they don’t feel they are progressing. Create an environment where people can reach their full potential. An environment where your team want to progress, learn about themselves, and build their knowledge about themselves and their role. Develop your people to the best they can be. Look after them and they will look after your customers.
You Only Focus on the Day to Day: Put adequate time aside for plans to be discussed, delivered, and reviewed outside of the day to day running of the business. I often see people working excessive hours just to meet the day-to-day requirements of their role, and the commitments required to deliver the plan are not prioritised. Time should be allocated to the team to deliver on their responsibilities with the plan. You should also make time to review time management with your team and support them in achieving their goals.
There is No Clear Goal: We can get so caught up in the day to day, that months and even years pass by without a thought for where we are headed towards. What is the ultimate goal you are trying to achieve? Are people aware of the bigger picture vision you have in mind and where you are headed? Making people aware of the ultimate goal will certainly provide them with a better opportunity of helping you achieve it.
I am sure there are many other reasons as to why plans fail but these are the 12 reasons that I believe are most common, based on my own experience. I would say the underlying theme is; organisations underestimate ‘people and culture’ as part of their overall strategy and focus on tasks and improvement projects.
The underlying theme is; organisations underestimate ‘people and culture’ as part of their overall strategy and focus on tasks and improvement projects. When a true learning philosophy is embraced the whole organisation is engaged in delivering value to your customers and creating competitive advantage. This level of alignment will ensure you survive and thrive in the future.
To help reduce your risk with your own plan and bring these ideas to life with your own journey, we have a free Master Plan Pre-Mortem template to share. Pre-Mortem rather Post-Mortem because you will move at a faster pace with your plan if you remove the blockers before they happen. Waiting until the end or until they happen will slow you down.
The Master Plan Pre-Mortem template is free to download for manufacturing leaders based in the UK. This is the niche sector we support and know that we can add significant value and that our approach works.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, not the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin
This article was written by the Founder & Managing Director of the Manufacturers Alliance, Gary Sheader. Gary is keen to support people in achieving the art of the possible in the manufacturing sector and ensure the sector thrives throughout the 21st century. He sees inspiring leadership as key to this and loves to help manufacturing business owners and managers grow to achieve goals they never thought possible.