As it appeared in the Daily Nation on November 6th 2018
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu

The year 2018 is almost ending. Have you started thinking about 2019? Have you thought about what your business should accomplish in 2019? Have you decided what your top priorities for 2019 should be? Have you determined how you will position your business in the marketplace? Planning is critical for every business. Without a clear plan, a business is likely to meander through its life without any sense of direction. Planning brings the much-needed clarity into the direction that a business should follow in order to stay alive.

Like many with a background in strategy, I believe that business leaders should have strong planning skills. These skills are important in supporting the businesses design its desired path and create its preferred future. Most businesses plan almost half a year in advance. Therefore, those that have not yet planned for 2019 need to do so now. It adds no value to keep lamenting about 2017 and 2018 without planning for 2019.

I consider planning to be a decision making process. Business leaders get to choose between alternatives. Businesses that realise that the choices they make determine their outcomes are better placed to survive into the future. With a strong resolve to do whatever it takes to achieve their business goals, smart leaders relentlessly steer their businesses towards the right direction. Unfortunately, some business leaders often blame their outcomes on external circumstances and fail to take responsibility.

The process of designing an annual plan requires the involvement of all key staff. If you do not know where to start, a first step would be to gather your leadership team together for a brainstorm session. During this session, think through the lessons learned from the current year and from the past. In addition, determine the specific targets that need to be set for the coming year. What sales targets should be set? What level of profitability? The choice of products and services, the expansion plan if any and all aspects that are core to the business are other considerations to make. Planning is also an opportunity to think through how the specific external conditions will affect the business. Furthermore, rethink the people, the processes and the overall positioning of the business. The choices made at corporate level inform departmental as well as individual goals.

Once it is clear what goals the business needs to accomplish, it is time to put a plan of action in place. The plan of action turns the set goals into a reality. During this process, the team gets to determine the how to achieve its set goals, puts the responsibility on individuals, identifies the timelines and the required resources. Without an action plan and resourcing it is difficult to execute the plan.

Finally, keep track of your progress towards specific milestones and the set goal. Businesses need to measure their perform against plan on a daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly basis and take detours when required. With less than 60 days to the end of 2019, take action today. Determine what your business should accomplish in 2019 and put a plan in place!

Dr. Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy