Strategic plans can quickly become ignored, forgotten and useless without some process in place to keep it alive. Countless studies and surveys confirm that strategy execution remains a top priority for CEO’s and senior executive teams. Yet, I’m amazed to hear how infrequently executive teams review the progress of their plans. Regularly reviewing the progress of strategic initiatives helps maintain the level of accountability necessary to get things done and achieve the plan’s objectives.
If we agree that business plans should be reviewed regularly, then the next logical question is how often? Well, unfortunately the answer is “it depends.” Industry dynamics, competitive pressures, economic conditions, and financial performance can all influence the timing and frequency for reviewing a business plan. In addition, where a company is in its life cycle may also dictate how often business plans need to be reviewed – a start-up would likely have a different cadence compared to a well-established organization.
Recently, there has been some press coverage regarding leadership changes at Ford Motor Company. What caught my eye in a few of these articles was a reference to how Ford’s current CEO, Alan Mulally, several years ago instituted weekly business plan reviews. Yes, weekly. It is interesting to see that those weekly meetings focus on simply reviewing and reporting progress to date and next steps. I’m intrigued that the meetings do not allow for any long-winded explanations or excuses about why targets were not met or why an initiative is behind schedule. Division leaders are expected to objectively report results, good or bad, and then share what needs to be done moving forward. The automotive industry is still trying to bounce back from a brutal economic downturn, creating an intense focus on getting results fast. I imagine that Mulally truly believes in his plan and that he is convinced the long-term viability of Ford depends on successfully executing that plan. A weekly business plan review, as burdensome as it may seem, certainly reinforces accountability and eliminates the ability to hide and ignore the plan.
Clearly not every company needs to adopt a weekly business plan review. The key takeaway is less about how often a business plan should be reviewed, and more about the simple fact that a plan should be reviewed regularly. Review the plan; ask for updates on progress; hold people accountable – - you’ll be amazed with the results.