British sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein was once visited in his studio by the eminent author, George Bernard Shaw. The visitor noticed a huge block of stone standing in one corner and asked what it was for. “I don’t know yet,” Epstein replied. “I’m still making plans.” Shaw was astounded. “You mean you plan your work?” he asked. “Why, I change my mind several times a day!” “That’s all very well with a four-ounce manuscript,” replied the sculptor, “but not with a four-ton block.” Do you view you agency as a four-ton block or a four-ounce manuscript? Which of the two options above would be best for your agency: the planning and forethought approach, or the ‘changing your mind several times a day’ approach? From working with dozens of digital agencies annually, we continue to observe that the digital company owners who view their agency more as a four-ton block and adopt the planning & forethought approach have better results. Operating without a plan leads to a lack of focus and discipline. Proper planning is essential to achieve your greatest potential. Here are 7 ways planning will help you become a better leader and allow you to get what you want from your business. 1. Planning creates a map to reach the agency’s vision John Maxwell has a great definition of a leader: “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Most leaders typically live out the first two components of this definition well – they know where they want to lead the agency and they model the kind of behavior they expect from their agency as they journey toward the future. But it is the third component of ‘showing the way’ that often trips leaders up because not only are they are unable to paint a compelling picture of the future, but they also can’t articulate the plan to achieve that vision to their wider team. We often compare the Strategic Plans we help companies create to maps that will act as a guide that will allow everyone to journey together toward that preferred picture of the future. Agency owners are responsible for ensuring the company has a great plan to achieve its vision. 2. Planning diagnoses an agency’s strengths and weaknesses A plan will not be great unless it first assesses your strengths and weaknesses, both internal and relative to your competition. Planning identifies what is currently working well that needs to be optimized, what is broken than needs to be fixed, what is missing that need to be added, and what is confused that needs to be clarified. 3. Planning increases flexibility Agencies that fly by the seat of their pants may be lauded as being organic and flexible, especially when in the startup phase, but in reality, such a management style leads eventually leads to an organization that is just reacting and surviving, barely keeping its head above water. The best way to become a flexible organization is to get a better handle on current realities and future possibilities, and then make the best plan possible. Mark Chussil says that “In business, the opposite of unpredictable isn’t predictable. The opposite of unpredictable is strategic.” Great planning cannot prepare for all eventualities. But great planning can increase your agency’s flexibility to deal with the unexpected. 4. Planning identifies what to pursue At some point, high potential opportunities will emerge for your agency. Since time and resources are limited, companies need to ensure they spend their resources on the few opportunities with the greatest chance to produce the highest return, while at the same time mitigating the risk and resources required to pursue those opportunities. Planning helps capitalize on emerging opportunities. 5. Planning leads to innovation Your team lives and breathes billable client work on a daily basis. While team members may think of good ideas, many times they don’t have the right outlet to share the ideas with others. Engaging in an intentional planning process to draw out the best ideas from your team creates a collaborative setting that will see someone share a good idea and the other team members further mold it into an even better plan. Day-to-day operations are often a barrier to innovation. A good planning process will clear the decks of operational clutter, and allow space and energy for innovation and creativity to flourish. 6. Planning improves your weekly meetings Most agencies have poor internal weekly meeting habits in part because they are attempting to solve longer term strategic issues in weekly meetings that should be focused on tactics and operations. Engaging in a proven and effective annual and quarterly planning sessions improves the focus and quality of internal weekly meetings. 7. Planning allows your team to appropriately work “on” the business Having a cadence of two days of annual planning, and one day for quarterly planning, allows your leadership team enough space to appropriately work “on” the business, thus increasing everyone’s effectiveness working “in” the business. So What? Planning truly is the key to turning the vision of your agency into reality. If you would like to explore how we help agency owners turn their agency vision into a reality through strategic planning and coaching, we’d be happy to set up a time to talk. Next Steps Visit navigatethejourney.com and schedule a call with us for a complimentary Company, Team or Leader diagnostic. About the Author Tom is a Professional EOS Implementer™ and the CEO of Navigate the Journey, a firm that specializes in helping the owners of digital agencies, web development and consultancies improve at the company, team and individual leader levels.
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