Part 1 of this series introduced the 3 cycles of planning that are critical to the long term growth and sustainability of a business.
The article ended with this set of questions:
“What are the optimum levels of focus and resources required by each cycle? Thinking in terms of money, time, and human capital, what level of investment is appropriate to each level?”
The answer is nothing new: we need to focus on what is important rather than what is merely pressing. We have a tendency to focus on the squeakiest, the immediately pressing thing, rather than on what makes the difference in our businesses over the long haul.
So how should we target our planning resources for the long-term health and growth of our business?
The Current Cycle
The current cycle consists of the daily and weekly to-do lists, memos, and daily check-ins, that must happen to provide optimum environments for your employees, and flawless service for your customers. This cycle has an operational emphasis.
How much time should you spend at this level? In part this depends on the quality of the planning done in the longer growth and deep cycles. The more elegant and thorough the larger design, the less the strain on resources for structuring your current cycle. Great athletes and performers trust the months and years of foundation-building they have done to guide their performances in the moment.
The more grounded your structures and actions are in your values, mission, and the needs of your customers, the less time you have to spend on deciding how to handle each small incident as it comes up. The more the values of your organization are wired into your DNA the more successfully you will make those inevitable on-the-spot decisions.
As a practice, spend about an hour a week and 10 minutes each day structuring and reviewing short-term plans. Jim Rohn said: “Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don’t fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.” These regular low-intensity check-ins prevent that slow invisible drift that wrecks so many organizations.
The Growth Cycle
The growth cycle captures those monthly and quarterly plans and activities that lead to the next sale, the next client, the next project. If the industry in question were farming, the growth cycle would be everything about the next planting and harvest cycle. Marketing is the core of growth cycle development.
The growth cycle should be the main focus of your regular monthly staff meetings.
As with the current cycle, the resources you require to effectively manage the growth cycle are determined by how well-structured your deep cycle designs are. If you have your larger vision and mission clearly set, the growth cycle falls into place relatively easily.
Scheduling a couple of hours each month, and a half-day each quarter for growth cycle work ensures your organization or career is growing the way you envisioned. Both current and growth cycle reviews check past events and ‘next decisions’ against the long term direction of the deep cycle. The current cycle focuses on internal adjustments and corrections. The growth cycle also assesses the external environment and determines near-future opportunities.
The Deep Cycle [pullshow]
In the professional life of performing artists there are the daily disciplines of practice, and the ongoing work towards new performances, shows, and tours. But sometimes you need to go further: you must do more than create art; you must recreate yourself. Artists from Beethoven to Madonna to Picasso have ‘periods’ or phases in their work. These transformations are not accidental or evolutionary. They are deliberate redesigns and restructuring of their process.
In business the designs and plans of the deep cycle are worked out in the brand, vision, and mission of a professional or an organization. [pullthis]This is the place to decide not what you will do next, but who you will be next.[/pullthis] In the 3 to 5 years that the deep cycle describes, you may decide to continue on as you did before, or that you will be someone or something completely different. The critical point is that you decide. This is the cycle of rebranding, exit strategies, and succession plans.
Your environment will change as surely as the sun rises and sets. You must respond to and even anticipate that change, or become irrelevant.
Not only does time spent on the deep cycle forestall obsolescence, it provides the foundation for the other two cycles. The richer and more 3-dimensional the designs and structures of the deep cycle, the more efficient the execution of the current and growth cycles. The time spent on the deep cycle should reflect its importance. Not only should we spend a couple of hours quarterly, and several days annually to design our visions, a few minutes of every meeting should be spent checking current decisions and events against deep cycle designs.
I suggest clients spend between 160 and 180 hours per year designing, structuring, reviewing, and adjusting. About half of that, or 80 to 90 hours per year, is spent on the current cycle and the same amount on the growth and deep cycles combined.
The exact numbers become a bit of a game, but the general profile is important and raises important questions: how much time are you spending planning, designing, structuring, preparing? What does your commitment look like? Are you taking time from other things to make this a priority? The annual commitment averages out to between 3 and 4 hours a week (keeping in mind that some of that time is spent in deeper sessions like weekend retreats). If I were to look at your organizational or professional calendar, would I be able to find that much time committed to this work?
I provide support for small to medium-sized businesses in developing growth plans and ensuring execution. I have clients throughout Western Canada. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org