In stride: how to execute a plan and realize corporate objectives in five steps

In stride: how to execute a plan and realize corporate objectives in five steps – New Dimensions

Mike Butts

After drawing parallels between strategic combat mission planning and business operations last month, I decided to keep a tactical mindset this issue and discuss the five different phases of U.S. fighter pilot operations: plan, brief, execute, debrief–win. When properly applied in conjunction with a defined strategy, these steps form a business process that will help your employees and managers meet defined corporate objectives.

Let’s assume you’ve already completed and thoroughly analyzed a plan, or “mission,” and agreed upon a course of action. Now the briefing phase begins. First and foremost at this stage is not to keep the plan a secret. You must share the goals with the entire group of people who will have responsibility for achieving them–including your yard staff. By some industry estimates, operations personnel are responsible for determining up to 90 percent a yard’s customer service satisfaction level, so don’t forget this important group!

Convey every detail of the entire mission plan; don’t leave anything out, including the financial ramifications of success. Your objective here is twofold: 1) gain complete and thorough company-wide support for the plan and 2) accomplish the goal. If you have the entire staff on board, your chances of success will be multiplied exponentially. To summarize the briefing phase in two words: communicate and inform.

Next is the execution stage. Simply stated, this is where everything gets real. The planning and posturing is over; it’s time to make it happen. Or, as Nike’s slogan puts it: “Just do it” However, keep plans flexible enough to allow for modifications on the run, and don’t become so intently focused on the end result that you lose sight of the day-to-day activities required to get you there. Continually monitor and measure every aspect of your plan. Track sales daily, weekly, and monthly. Monitor customer service levels and ask frontline employees what they see and hear on a regular basis. Seek out and appreciate honest customer feedback.

The fourth phase is to debrief the team. Once the mission has been completed, sit back and reflect on what occurred, how it happened, and what could have been done differently to improve the end results. This shouldn’t be a Monday morning quarterback session, but a straightforward analysis of how everyone performed. It must be accomplished with complete honesty and candor. Take the boss hat off and function as a team discussing the performance of the entire team. Everyone needs to be free to openly congratulate and constructively criticize other team members regarding their performance. Look at and dissect every phase of the plan from beginning to end. This can be accomplished by asking the same types of questions you would pose at a post-close sales meeting. What was accomplished, how was it done, where did the team win, where did we drop the ball, and how can we do things better next time?

Finally, enjoy the win. Whether or not the ultimate goal of the plan was reached, hopefully everyone performed as a team, learned more about the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, and came away from the experience with a clear vision of the company’s future.

Enjoy the moment, you earned it!

Mike Butts is the vice president of the Michigan

Lumber and Building Materials Association.

517.394.5225. E-mail:

COPYRIGHT 2003 Hanley-Wood, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group