Those of us who work at the front end of financial planning are very used to ensuring that our clients’ objectives are planned for. But how many of us actually plan how to meet our own objectives? How many of us are “for” performance planning, and how many of us are “against” performance planning?
Whether we are individuals or businesses, almost certainly we should plan to produce a certain level of revenue over new business year. But the chances are that many look only at the end result, not how to achieve the end result. I’ve seen many so-called “personal revenue business plans” that boast “I’m certainly going to get this much revenue from this source, and that much revenue from that source, as I did last year. I think I can increase this and if I get this much new business then I think I should make my target”, and I’m thinking: “Yeah, right. Remember the old saying “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”?
Those who do exactly the same things as they did the previous year without any planning risk failing to achieve their objectives. The problem is with changing nothing is that nothing changes. If an individual adviser sits on their client bank looking only to sustain the existing revenue their business will never grow, and neither will their experience of new and different scenarios. Just as change is inevitable, change is often good. We need to plan for change, and therefore we need plan for performance because we need to ensure that whatever changes we need to make are planned for, monitored, and achieved. This applies to whatever work we are involved with, whether it is revenue-generation, administration, research or control and monitoring functions.
Performance planning is the first stage in performance management. It is a formal process used for identifying and planning both organisational and individual goals by creating a clear, structured process to measure if the goals have been met or exceeded, and therefore it links into an ongoing process of checking and if necessary amending plans to ensure that the end goal is achieved, or performance management. After all, performance is in everything we do: What we do, and how we do it.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples: Consider the adviser who would have normally picked up a suitability report from his office and presented it to his client without reading it first. What if it was a difficult presentation? How much better would the performance have been if the adviser read the report, and even practised the delivery before seeing his client? Or what about the manager who is consistently late for meetings and often ineffective due to lack of preparation in many of them. We’ve all seen examples of poor diary management, the booking of back to back meetings, and meetings over-running. How much better would it be if that manager’s diary had time blocked out between all meetings, thus avoiding over-runs and giving the manager a chance to prepare for and be on time for each next meeting? The resolution is acquired through performance planning. Understanding the issue, planning how to resolve the issue, and ultimately achieving the desired result.
That’s the why nailed. Now we need to consider how to plan for performance.
Defining a successful outcome is not as obvious as it may seem. Success takes many forms
Performance appraisals and board meetings should identify how well a person or organisation is performing; how well a piece of work or activity has been done, or how good the half year or year-end results were. Consideration must be given to what went well, what didn’t go well, and most importantly, why. Post-analysis is paramount and the individual or business needs to understand the results, using all the available information to identify what areas need improving because they either weren’t achieved or because they could be done better, as well as what areas are probably as good as they can be. Use the challenge of “if you could improve one thing, what would it be and what would be the impacts?” Then consider “if you could improve a number of things, what would be the impacts then?” These are great opportunities to really challenge strategies and plans. Analysis should always be periodic and not left to the end of the business year, otherwise by the time any new plans and strategies are agreed and implemented the business or individual is already into the new business year.
Peer reviews are often very useful for individual performance plans as the individuals’ peer may be more experienced in the subject under review. The peer is also unlikely to have the same vested interest that the individual and therefore is more likely to be impartial to the outcome. However, businesses may have less information outside of the business upon which to benchmark themselves, other than the criteria that the business has set itself in previous years, so the business owners or the board may only have themselves to sound off against, unless they identify a third person or party who can provide relevant input.
Performance planning must be documented. For individuals this should be in the form of a Personal Development Plan, or a Training and Development Plan. For businesses this should be included in a business development plan. Whatever the development, the plan must contain what needs to be developed, why it needs to be developed, and when it needs to be achieved. Performance monitoring must be factored in to detail the monitoring points and milestones, as well as the anticipated impacts both positive and negative, and make provision for the recording of wins and learns for review should the performance plan need adjusting or repeating at some point in the future.
Defining a successful outcome is not as obvious as it may seem. Success takes many forms. The obvious utopia is the total achievement, or even the excelling of all elements of the performance plan. But success can also be measured by any improvement made in relation to the performance plan. If the development was to increase revenue by 20%, even a 1% revenue increase, albeit a small increase, is a success providing it relates to the activities in the performance plan and not purely due to reasons outside of the plan.
We all plan for normal non-work related activities, such as getting to a particular holiday destination, the booking of the actual holiday, the journey to the airport and perhaps the parking at the airport. If we take too long finding the right holiday, were we perhaps looking at the wrong website, or holiday brochures? If we get delayed driving to the airport, was this because we accepted the most straight-forward route and didn’t check the traffic news before we left, or researched an alternative route? If we find our car park, but also find we have to wait for a half-hourly shuttle bus, or that the shuttle bus takes twenty minutes to get to the terminal, could we have checked alternative car parks that might have cost a little more, but are perhaps nearer or have more flexible car park to terminal arrangements? These are all performance-related activities that we undertake ourselves, so we should plan accordingly.
My question is this: Why wouldn’t we plan for performance, whether at work or not? If you’re against planning, simply too busy, or just can’t be bothered, consider what might happen if you don’t plan. Then consider what might happen if you did.