“A good plan executed right now is far better than a perfect plan next week.” - George S. Patton
Patton had it right. An executive pattern that I’ve often seen is paralysis while waiting for perfect. As a mid-market company, you don’t have the time, profit, or revenue that allows you to wait for perfection before execution. It may not be a sexy story, but it's time to SMACCC to save your company.
Several years ago, I was coaching a CEO for a $17mm company. He had a financial officer who would not get the books quickly closed at end of the month, who often had to restate earnings, and who only reported instead of interpreting the numbers for financial decisions, realistic projections, and future initiatives. This CEO worked hard but was unwilling to be hard on the financial results. I sent a copy of Simple Numbers by Greg Crabtree to no avail. My final advice to the CEO? Replace his financial officer. The CEO didn’t, and one year later the company let go of nearly 30% of the workforce. Waiting for the perfect that never happened put them at risk of what occurred. They haven’t recovered.
Compare the above inaction to CEO Steve Nabity and President Greg Gaggini of Accuquilt. When we first met, they had been through a similar scenario, but unlike the previously mentioned CEO, they took action. When I arrived for their annual planning session, their new financial officer had been onboard just long enough to realize she would not be able to reach the goal. For peace of mind, to maintain banking relations, and to satisfy the board of directors, the company goal was a (correct) 5-day close at EOM (end of the month), and it needed to start at the next month’s closing.
The financial officer discovered that account codes (and more) were just too erroneous to meet a five-day close. We huddled over our lunch break to brainstorm approaches to success. Steve agreed to isolate the financial person from other duties so she could focus on correcting the data and preparing to meet the goal of a five-day close. They hired two temporary workers to perform data entry. All finance-related issues were filtered through the CEO or President. Nothing was allowed to distract. They met the goal and have been doing so year after year while profitably growing the company.
Was it perfect? No. There was pain, some delayed actions, and a lot of 'buts.' Comments like, “But we’ve never done that before,” "but I need just this one exception,” “but this can’t wait until month close” – the 'buts' were in abundance. This is just one reason why planning is so important – to decide what to say “no” to while focusing all energy and effort on your “yes.”
Recently, Errol Doebler of Leader 193 spent a day educating me on his lessons as a SEAL operator and as FBI Special Agent for over 13 years. Errol shared plenty of examples of military preparedness and then linked them to what we do as business leaders. He gave us the simple acronym SMACCC, and I was struck by how applicable this is to business and think you will be, too. When you start to hear 'but' in your organization, ask yourself whether you know what to say yes to and when to say no.
A little SMACCC will save your company:
S – Situation. Our Situation and common purpose – why are we doing this? What are the background circumstances and decisions leading to a need for action? Think of this as WHY and share it with everyone. Every decision will be made for a better purpose.
M – Mission. What’s our Mission for the Quarter or year? What is the goal? We call these quarterly priorities. Think of this as the “what” and make sure that they are SMART.
A – Action. What Actions will be taken on priorities? This is like the “How.” What actions will be performed by whom? I recommend 2-3 actions with due date per 13-week priority.
C – Command. Who is in charge of what? Assign roles and ensure people stay in their lane and do THEIR job. One person per item.
C – Communication. The person in command of any item should raise his or her hand if needed for support or reinforcements. A consistent communication framework should be used by teams to communicate. Set standards in your company as a foundation to scale up. I recommend weekly team meetings for teams with the four letters SMAC (above) as a minimum framework. Realistic use of huddles and monthly meetings is also recommended to help save your business.
C – Contingency. If any portion of your plan were to fail, what might be a second-choice approach? Contingency does not mean that it’s too hard for us to do, it means that we accept the brutal fact that an unknown could knock us off track or cause failure. If weekly progress were dismal, a contingency would allow you to move faster toward recovery and success.
“You are What You Do, Not What You Say You’ll Do” C.G. Jung.
It’s time to do it. This proven SMACCC framework is used by SEAL operatives and FBI investigators for proven success, and it will work for you. Stop waiting for perfect and start SMACCC now. It will save your business.
Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images
Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images