Published on Huffington Post – July 5, 2016

If you’ve ever been in a company that has asked you for a 90-day plan, you know how difficult it can be to create one that is effective. This can be a very commonly used exercise for startups. Having been in this situation several times, I can say that what I’ve learned to be effective is not exactly what I thought would be… in fact; in some cases it’s the opposite.

Typically people tend to think about how to get to the goals faster than what is currently happening. Although this is good, it may not always be the best for a 90-day plan. Here are 9 things to think about the next time you are asked to create a 90-day plan for your company.

9 Tips for a 90-Day Plan

• 90-Day Goal: A plan is only going to work if you have a set goal in mind. Make sure you clearly articulate what that is and how you plan on achieving it.

• Vision: A 90-Day plan does require some creative thinking and vision casting. Sometimes this is really outside the norm and other times it’s explaining the glue that holds the plan together. Either way, make sure you dream a little and craft a vision statement that helps to guide and hold your plan in-place.

• Assessment: The assessment is critical because this helps to define where the strengths and weaknesses are in your business or department. The assessment also helps you to discern process, price, quality, timeliness, viability, competition and even whether or not you have the right staff in place.

• Pain Points: Determine the biggest pain points: the ones that are causing the most friction for a seamless revenue stream. Pain points can come in any form. Typically they are breakdowns in a process that hinge on successful operation of contiguous steps. An example of this could be an assembly line breakdown where equipment is not functioning properly and is causing interruptions in product production. Another example can be the business development process is not working well enough to create increased sales because the sales force does not understand how to prospect, sell and close properly.

• Say “No”: In my opinion, this could be the most important. In any 90-Day plan, you will always discover that there will be a million things to accomplish. However, not all of them are critically important. You must learn now to say “no” to the less important things that are not going to help you reach your goals most effectively and efficiently. TIP: Being busy with unimportant tasks is not being productive.

• Priority Action Plan: This is where you must determine what are the most important action steps and in what order should they occur. Previous items listed in your goals, assessment and pain points determine all these. You want to be very clear with this part of the plan. Ambiguous action steps can lead to missed goals.

• Measurement + Review: In order to make sure your 90-Day plan is working, you must clearly draft ways you will be measuring your plan. Think about the critical conversion points that are easily measureable. You don’t want to measure everything because it very well could paralyze you when you’re trying to review your metrics. Keep it simple. Then figure out how often you should review your metrics. This will help you to make adjustments without the headaches.

• Forecast The Next 90 Days: Here’s the fun part. Now that you’re close to the end of your first 90 days, it’s time to review what your results are and create the next 90-Day plan based on your data. Don’t forget to have a goal, this is the target you are shooting for each time you draft a 90-Day Plan.

• What’s The Secret Sauce? As you can see the last bullet point is called “What’s the secret sauce?” That’s a synopsis of your entire plan that states what is the most important thing your plan just can’t live without. Think carefully about this, because it’s not an easy answer. When you do figure out what it us, weave it into the entire planning process because it’s the lifeline for success.

Once you’ve officially created your 90-day plan and you’re about to head into the second stage, you’re probably somewhat overwhelmed and cannot think about where to start. That’s fair. I would start with the assessment stage and identify what worked and what didn’t? Then you can simplify and tackle the rest of the plan from that point.

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