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9 Tips to Make Your Business Agile and Outsmart the Competition

By Ted Skinner

    Tue, Jan 1, 2019 @ 09:00 AM Annual & Quarterly Planning, Strategy Execution

    Business is moving faster than ever before, and these days your business needs to be as nimble possibleMake your business agile with Quarterly Planning to respond to the rapidly changing business landscape. In today’s nonstop global economy, there is always somebody, somewhere trying to capture part of your market and your customers. You need to create an organization able to respond to the changes in the market more quickly than ever, or you will lose market share to the competition. Unfortunately, many of the legacy tools that businesses use don’t adapt fast enough to work in today’s cutthroat global economy and need to be modernized. Software teams realized this decades ago and quickly shifted from the outmoded Waterfall methodology to the Agile software development framework; it is time for the whole business to catch up to this advancement.

    Many businesses have relied solely on the outdated static strategic annual plan for way too long. This type of plan outlines all of the strategic goals you wish to achieve during the year with little to no thought about the steps required to actually achieve the initiatives. What good are strategies if you don’t have a plan to execute them? That is why Rhythm Systems recommends creating a handful of Key Initiatives that you want to accomplish over the year and developing a quarterly planning rhythm to create four 13-week plans in successive quarters that iterate based on the current information available at the time of planning.

    One of the major challenges associated with solely having an annual strategic plan is that it doesn’t allow you to respond quickly enough to changes in the marketplace. Your business is stuck working on what seemed like a great idea months ago, but may have no bearing on the current business environment. Even if it is still a great concept, tweaks and adjustments are likely to be required based on feedback gathered during the process. The second major flaw is that these plans often focus solely on strategy or WHAT you want to get done and not about the execution or HOW you are going to do it. A great plan needs to be holistic and clearly outline what you need to do in order to order to turn the strategy into reality and provide a straightforward executable roadmap to complete the goals.

    Rhythm Systems works with companies to create hundreds of clear quarterly execution plans every quarter based on each customer's Annual Key Initiatives. These execution plans have a clear set of objectives, success criteria, action items, responsibilities and due dates for your strategy that can be accomplished (read: actually get done) during the next quarter. In meticulously defining what needs to get done and how to do it, we change customers' “wish lists” to actual plans that are reliable and predictable. Rhythm’s Quarterly Planning methodology takes the 3-5 Key Initiatives from your annual plan and segments them into what can be accomplish in each of the four quarters with our four quarter flyover tool. We call these each of these four quarters thirteen-week races®.  

    Instead on focusing on the mountain, which is the end of the year, we focus on what needs to be done this quarter to get us to the first base camp. After reaching the first base camp, we take what we have learned and apply that to getting towards the second base camp. After you reach each plateau, you evaluate what you were able to get done, re-analyze the market and your business and use real world data to update your plan. These adjustments to the current market conditions can be large or small but are vital as you start the race towards the next objective. The Rhythm methodology allows you take the annual plan and break it down into quarterly manageable pieces that are easier to execute and have more transparency and clarity.

    If your company is currently only using annual planning as part of your planning cycle, it is really easy to get started planning for the next quarter. Assemble the appropriate team members, typically the best place to start is with the executive committee, and have them decide the top three to five objectives that the company can reasonably achieve in the next quarter. Then, clearly define your success criteria and don’t forget this also includes what failure looks like; at Rhythm, we use the Red-Yellow-Green system to make it easy to track each of the thirteen weeks. Ensure that everyone knows what they are accountable for and what their key milestones are to make sure that they are on track. Keep everyone updated at your weekly meetings and brainstorm to solve any obstacles that have come up.

    9 Tips for the Agile Business:

    • Have Annual and Quarterly Plans. Check out our free resources for Annual Plans and Quarterly Plans
    • Focus on 3-5 Company Priorities for the company, any more and you will get distracted
    • Concentrate on 3-5 Group Priorities at the departmental level - such as sales, customer service or marketing
    • Define 3-5 Individual Priorities for each person in your organization
    • Break down large projects into smaller tasks that can be reasonably completed in the next 13-week race; remember the goal is to be able to have reliable plans so make them realistic
    • Set clear success criteria with SMART Goals at the beginning of the quarter so that all parties have alignment on what success looks like
    • Set milestones to know that your priorities are on track to be completed in the quarter
    • Make adaptations as needed in your weekly adjustment meeting to stay on track, respond to the current market conditions and out-execute the competition
    • Use a cloud based system, such as Rhythm software, to track progress and collaborate to solve the business challenges and opportunities that are sure to arise

    Read how Rhythm Strategy Execution Software and Agile Scrum work together, and feel free to check out all of our free resources to help you with your business process improvements!

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