Planning – More than “forced family fun”
Changing behaviors can be
really hard for us. Many of us are
pretty self-aware about the areas of our life that need to be improved, but we
sometimes have a difficult time of implementing them consistently.
The same holds true for
businesses. As business leaders we are
usually well aware of the areas where our organization needs improvement. Sometimes change is easier said than done. MLS
organizations make statements like “We know our MLS should be more focused on
the needs of our subscribers.” Brokers say “We know our brokerage should be
more committed to creating and enforcing a consistent brand message among all
of our agents.” In most cases
organizations know what needs to be done, but they don’t always have the tools
in place to make permanent improvements.
With the softness of the
real estate market and some predictions of an impending recession, it is ever
more important that organizations become more effective at creating operational
WAV Group engages in
strategic planning sessions around the country. In our travels we see many groups
that are committed to the process of planning the future of their
organizations. With guidance they are usually very good at uncovering the key opportunities
for improvement. In my days at
Fisher-Price we used to call these kinds of sessions “forced family fun”. Everyone comes together, envisions a better
future for the organization. The sessions are usually very positive and upbeat
and most people leave the meeting feeling good about the event. The problem is
that many of the far-reaching goals and ideas discussed at strategic planning
sessions never see the light of day. Many strategic planning initiatives fall
short of effective execution.
WAV Group has several
suggestions on how to make the resolutions you make for your organization
Focus, Focus, Focus
We have reviewed several
strategic plans which include a myriad of priorities and projects. While they
may all be projects of value, they do not consider the time, budget and human
resource constraints of an organization. When a board or MLS builds these
priorities in a board-driven strategic planning session and then “hands” them
to the CEO for execution, they are in effect setting up the CEO. In many cases
there is no way to achieve all of the projects on the list. If a CEO’s bonus is
based on the outcomes of the strategic plan, they are destined to disappoint
which does not serve the needs of the organization or the board of directors.
We recommend that an
organization take on no more than 5 key objectives in any one year. The staff
can manage and report on five key areas monthly and help the board recognize
the progress that is being made.
While just about every organization
that we talk to says they have action plans in place to achieve objectives,
many of them are static documents. They are built once and then never adhered
to or adjusted. True action plans are dynamic. They are adjusted and refined
regularly. They become the “bible” of
the company, driving priorities for each and every person in the organization.
The board is involved with any key revisions in priority which deviate from the
agreed to priorities from the strategic plan.
Ideally, action plans are detailed
with the lead person responsible, start date and completion date, budget
required and any interdependencies with other projects.
Progress against the key
deliverables is reported weekly to the Executive Committee and monthly to the
board of directors. The well-run
company demonstrates full transparency to projects being delivered at all
At monthly board meetings,
the same set of objectives are outlined every month and the progress being made
against each one is also reported.
“Good to Great” Benchmarks
There’s a book called Good
to Great which was written by Jim Collins several years ago. The book talks
about the importance of benchmarking progress against established goals.
WAV Group believes strongly
that any priority outlined for an organization must have one or more benchmarks
identified to help measure progress over time.
For example, we hear from
many MLSs that they would like to see more member participation in technology
training. Many have not quantified who
actually does participate and what their satisfaction levels are. A company may want to set performance
benchmarks for how many people they would like to participate. They may also
want to measure current satisfaction levels and set goals for satisfaction
improvement over time. As the company
uncovers idea which may make their training more effective like offering new
formats or new topics, they may also want to set performance goals about when
the programs will be up and running. Each of these benchmarks will be reported
to the board of directors regularly.
Here’s another example:
A broker is concerned that
satisfaction levels with her clients is not as high as she would like. She does not have data to support her
belief, just a feeling she’s getting because of a few phone calls and emails
she has received. Because agent’s usually “own” the customer relationship
brokers do not really know how well their agent’s are serving the needs of
A broker may want to first
conduct a survey among current clients and recent buyers polling them on their
satisfaction levels with their real estate transaction. Once she has determine
the baseline level of satisfaction, then she may employ several strategies
which she can also benchmark. She could conduct customer responsiveness
training and require each of her agents to attend. She could set a goal for executing the program throughout the
company. The broker may also put an
ongoing customer satisfaction program in place which could measure client
feedback at several brand “touchpoints” like websites, listing presentations,
home showings, offers, closing etc.
That way she can measure where in the process satisfaction levels may be
stronger or weaker.
Brokers may also want to
engage with programs from companies like QSC, Quality Service Certification (http://www.qualitycertified.org
) which automates the process
of getting customer feedback while providing training in customer
There are many examples of
where benchmarking can be valuable in your business. The concept of benchmarking can be applied to software
development, customer satisfaction, help desk performance, financial
performance, employee recruiting and retention, educational programs and even
marketing performance. Benchmarks can
also be used to measure the effectiveness of lead generation and lead
When WAV Group conducts
strategic planning sessions, we incorporate the disciplines of benchmarks set
against a tightly defined set of priorities which are achievable with realistic
and measurable action plans.
If you are planning an
upcoming strategic planning and would like more information on the WAV Group
Strategic Planning process, feel free to contact us at email@example.com