As I said in the previous article, I think it is easy to develop a vision or mission. But the big question is how do you get from the vision to actual sales growth? Many articles on the wonders of vision statements imply that if a manufacturer writes a good vision statement that somehow it will get implemented (the rain dance myth). In my experience, visions and goals never get realized unless someone develops a plan that shows every department and manager what they must do to reach the goals.
The following outline describes a planning process that was designed specifically for SMMs who manufacture industrial products. It is based on the author’s real life experiences in a manufacturing turnaround situation and was implemented during the fires of combat to survive.
How Much Growth Do You Want?
Since growth in sales is the primary goal, the obvious first question is how much growth? It is important to write down the objectives for increasing sales volume, gross margins, and net profit for each year of the plan in terms of percentage increases. This will set up the parameters for the rest of the plan.
Master Plan Summary The second step in the process is to develop a one page sheet that describes the major problems facing the company(see Figure 1) I call it the Master Quad Plan because it has four quadrants that describe the following:
- Major Problems – After analyzing all of the internal and external information the major problems the company must address are summarized in one-sentence statements. They are shown in the upper left-hand corner of the Master QUAD sheet.
- Solutions and strategies – The team reviews and debates the problems until they agree upon the general solutions to these problems. The solutions were written as 1-sentence statements, which become the Corporate Strategies that would drive the rest of the Growth Plan.
- Hard Mission Objectives – The upper right hand corner of the QUAD SHEET are the measurable objectives or hard mission goals on sales, cost of goods, net profits, new products, market share, new market niches, acquisitions, and replacement of unprofitable customers. These hard mission objectives will be used to create a proforma budget and sales forecast
- Tasks.- These are major answers and potential projects that address the problems in the first quadrant.
With this single piece of paper you now have a way of communicating your objectives, major problems and solutions to the employees and all departments.
Plans Are Not Written Reports –Process and paperwork can strangle the planning process and limit the company’s ability to implement the plan. Suffice it to say that the more succinct the plan is and the less paragraphs there are – the better chance you will have of communicating and implementing the planning ideas. Yes it is possible to reduce a 100 page strategic plan down to a 12 page plan that can be implemented.
Implementation is the step where even well conceived plans break down. Implementation requires that the plan be shared and known throughout the company and that problems and solutions are broken down to the specific strategies and tasks and who will do them.
From the author’s experience, it seems to make the most sense to develop a simple action plan for each department in the form of a 1 page quad sheet. The idea is to push the authority for the specific strategies down to the people who must do or supervise the work. Since they and their staffs are the people who will make the plan work or not work, it is important to use a process where they can systematically examine the problems and solutions once they know exactly what the mission is from the Master Quad sheet.
This is a collective process executed by the whole team. The process begins by presenting the Master Quad Plan and asking each department what obstacles or problems they must overcome to achieve sales, profit, new product and other company goals. Once they define their problems and obstacles the next step is to collectively define the solutions. From many years of experience the author believes that finding the right strategies is best accomplished by the managers and people who control specific functions of the company.
The next step is to define the measurable objectives or to measure whether they have accomplished their plan. The last step (or quadrant) lists the tasks that also must be accomplished during the year. The specifics of how to develop a QUAD SHEET for each department and function are explained in detail in “SAVING AMERICAN MANUFACTURING” Chapter 9.
All QUAD plans are finalized and submitted to the General Manager or facilitator for approval or recommended changes. A final meeting is held where each manager or supervisor presents his or her QUAD plan to the group for a final review and to insure that each plan dovetails with the other department plans. This planning process is done every year at the beginning of the fiscal year.
How much investment will it take to achieve your growth goals? Almost all growth strategies cost money and will require investment. It is important to determine whether the company will have to borrow money or finance the growth from internally generated funds.
Proforma Budget and Forecast -If the company owners decide that you cannot borrow money and you must develop a growth plan based on internally generated funds, then it is absolutely necessary to have a financial tool that will help you chart the progress. I developed my proforma sales forecast/budget in excel and you can see one version of it in Saving American Manufacturing chapter 9. This will provide enough information to play “what if” during the next step of the planning process. The Proforma forecast and budget is simply a tool to test various sales and expense scenarios.
Did It work? - The question in your mind right now is all of this tedious work really necessary and does it work? My answer is that it certainly worked for me. The division that I developed the Quad Planning process for has grown from $10 to $25 million in sales and is profitable. They went from number 5 in market share to number one and have grown every year of the Great Recession.