You’ve invested the time and energy to come up with a solid plan for the quarter. You looked at data and forecasts and insights from the team and discussed, debated, and agreed on a plan for the quarter that would drive your annual plan and get you closer to your long term strategic goals. Even though you did your best in planning to be realistic and set goals that you believe to be both achievable and challenging, it is impossible to predict everything that will happen in your quarter that could potentially disrupt your plan.
This is why you need to be agile, nimble, and adjust quickly to changing circumstances during the course of the quarter. If you are going to be successful in achieving your plan for the quarter, you have to be willing to make adjustments along the way based on real world observations. The truth is that there is no such thing as a perfect plan - life happens! Maybe a key supplier or major contract falls through, maybe your new marketing strategy is taking longer to generate leads than you anticipated, maybe new government regulations throw a wrench in your plans, or maybe you suddenly find yourself dealing with people problems you weren’t expecting that take your focus off executing your plan. The trick to being successful is to recognize when your plan is going off track early enough so that you are able to do something about it before it is too late.
How will you know if you are not on track to achieve key priorities or hit critical metrics for the quarter? You need to be collecting real world data on the progress toward achieving these quarterly goals. Your teams all need to be updating the status of their KPIs and priorities every week, and they should be updating based on their forecast of how they think they will finish the quarter.
This is where the magic happens. If it is a third of the way through the quarter and your sales team has reached a third of their sales quota, they might be tempted to say this important metric is Green or on-track. However, if they are a third of the way to the sales goal and they have no pipeline and no promising leads, then they are definitely not on track to hit the total goal by the end of the quarter. This is the real world data that you need to know! If you know that you’re out of leads, then now’s the time to make an adjustment to your execution plan before time runs out. You can pull all of the right people in the room for an adjustment meeting to decide on the best plan to get the leads you need to finish strong.
Now is the time to pay attention to your dashboards! In your thirteen-week race, weeks four through six are critical for making adjustments. Before week four, you probably won’t have enough data to know how you’re going to end up at the end of the quarter. After week six, it might be too late to conceptualize and effectively implement a new strategy to get your Priority or KPI back on track before the quarter is over. Also, if a priority or KPI is absolutely critical and other major milestones for the year depend on them happening now, then you should set aside time in your planning session to discuss potential pitfalls and come up with a few adjustment plans to implement if the priority or KPI goes off track. It can be helpful to do this in planning when you’re brainstorming possibilities before you are in a situation where you are feeling the pain and not thinking as clearly or creatively as you ordinarily would be.
Good luck executing your plan, and don’t wait to make those key adjustments!