This article is part two of a three part series that is designed to stimulate thinking for management teams, and provide a few tools that should help the process. The focus today is: Setting Strategic Priorities.
For the last few weeks I have been writing about Market Diversification with an emphasis on developing practical strategies to grow profitably into new markets and find new customers. For further information on these articles, here’s a link to my Manufacturing Line Blog at AllBusiness.com, http://www.allbusiness.com/manufacturing-services/4967954-1.html.
Identify Three Priorities for the Rest of 2009
Last week we discussed the options in terms of setting three priorities for the remainder of 2009. Why three? Simply put, to keep everyone focused on your number one business priorities, it’s really necessary to boil them down to the real short list of actions that must be taken and the results that must be achieved. I have found that three is what works best, but certainly don’t choose more than five, otherwise they aren’t priorities any more.
Looking at the following list to spur thinking, what are your most immediate priorities for 2009? Make a list, then rank the list and pick your top priorities:
- Look beyond the current crisis at markets and customers that are growing
- Improve your product and market mix
- Free up cash
- Reduce capacity
- Improve productivity for direct and indirect labor
- Reduce raw material costs
- Improve customer knowledge and sales / marketing processes to deliver more value to your best customers
- Find out who your Most Valuable Customers are and decide what you need to do for them to increase sales
Developing an Action Plan
Now that you have your short list of priorities, you need to develop an action plan that will help you and your team manage its work plan. Your action plan should be used to focus your team’s energy and resources on doing the right things every day.
I recommend that you and your team take the time to explore how A3 Planning can be used to help develop your Critical Priority Action Plan. The process called A3 Planning was developed internally by Toyota over the last 30 years, A3 simply refers to the size of a sheet of paper roughly 11” x 17”. The goal of A3 Planning is to put all relevant facts regarding a plan on one piece of paper and be able to tell the story about the plan as quickly and succinctly as possible. I’ve done this on a small letter size 8.5” x 11” paper for smaller projects or broken the sections up into two letter size documents that when combined produce an A3 size document.
For now, your task is to begin thinking about the following sections of the A3 Plan:
- Focus: What is the overriding business goal your company must achieve?
- Background: Performance, Gaps & Targets
- Current Condition: Reflection on 2009 Activities So Far
- Goals for 2009
- Analysis: Rationale for This Year’s Priorities
- Priority Details: Activities, Responsibilities & Resources
- Target Results & Timelines
- Unresolved Issues
Next week I’ll demonstrate how to complete an A3 Plan that is focused on your business’s most immediate priorities for 2009 and how to use this same process to begin planning for 2010 and beyond