The missing ingredient in your 2020 business plan

October 29, 2019

‘Tis the season and professional service leaders around the globe are busy putting the finishing touches to their 2020 business plans. And I’m confident that I can predict the top business priorities outlined in these plans. And I’m 100% certain that I know what’s missing.



So, let’s start with the usual suspects. Your PowerPoint presentations will have a table of contents that looks something like this:


  1. Driving top-line revenue

  2. Improving margin contribution

  3. Increasing incremental revenue from top # clients

  4. Stemming attrition in major accounts

  5. Improve new business conversion rate

  6. Increase innovation to develop new products and services

  7. Increase effectiveness of external marketing and awareness generation

  8. Increase employee engagement

  9. Improve functional skill-sets through more effective L&D investment

  10. Streamline recruitment process


Looks thorough and no-one is going to get kicked out of the boardroom if this is your first slide. But let’s be honest. Does your 2020 business plan look similar (identical even) to your 2019 plan? And your 2018 plan? Do we really believe that next year will be the year where we really make progress against these objectives? Or will the PowerPoint soon be gathering ‘dust’ in the file whilst you switch from an annualized strategic approach to a day-to-day mortal combat plan?


Unfortunately, that could well be the case. And here’s the problem, and the opportunity. All of these ‘smart’ objectives are only a front for the people in your team who you’re relying on to make it all happen. It’s all too depersonalized and disconnected from reality. Disconnected from the human beings who need to solve complex problems, build relationships, develop new systems, dream up incredibly creative ideas and inspire others. And this is in large part because the instructions for the business planning cycle are all wrong. We’re simply asking the wrong questions.


The only questions that matter are these. How much energy do your employees have and are they motivated to put that energy behind your organizational mission? If the answer is ‘very little and no’ then all the fancy business lingo in the world will not get your business to where it needs to be.


And here is the giant opportunity staring you all in the face. Re-write and simplify your business plan to the following:


  1. Build energy at the individual employee level

  2. Connect employee energy to our organizational purpose


Be brave and don’t waste another day focusing on the wrong things.

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