In the profound words of John ‘Hannibal’ Smith… I love it when a plan comes together

As a child growing up in the UK in the 80’s the escapades of Hannibal, Face, Murdoch and BA were the stuff of legend. Typically sandwiched between World of Sport and the Wrestling (on one of only four available TV stations to watch….), the A-Team boys were proper appointment to view telly. The profound almost Shakespearian(!) mutterings of Hannibal and his ‘loving it when a plan comes together’ catchphrase meant very little till I got stuck into various roles in the world of business.

In the words of the equally sage BA ‘what you talking about fool?’

Well the truth is, irrespective of business, function or role – Hannibal was totally correct. As we exit 2015 and enter 2016 I’d like to think that across businesses everywhere plans have been finalised and approved (doubtless by multiple layers if you are in the corporate world) and people will be enjoying a coast into Christmas knowing they are coming back to a plan that will engage, motivate and have a good chance of succeeding…..

Really? The truth of course is that won’t always be the case and they’ll be way too many plans built on shaky foundations and a dollop of hope and fortune. Good luck everyone.

For me, as I’ve written in a previous post I always enjoyed the planning cycle when it was done well particularly if it was developed in good time – with the ability to flex and adapt, with real insight at the heart, engaged the right stakeholders and had the genuine opportunity of being effective and rewards being mutually achieved.

I’ve been fortunate to have been exposed to good practice via my time spent within the Cereal Partners joint venture which allowed me to listen and hear the best that both Nestle and General Mills had to offer across multiple functions and disciplines. Two great parent organisations for the price of one job! I was then able to post rationalise the aspects that I’d learnt and felt were relevant when I led the Marketing for the UK’s biggest privately owned brewer – Charles Wells.

I return to a very simple philosophy that marketing and commercial impact needs to get noticed and be persuasive. Too often ambiguity prevails and it is this muddying of the waters that immediately creates uncertainty around the plans developed, created and shared.

Over recent years I have built my own simple checklist which strives for absolute clarity for all parties.

  • Written clearly, what are your must win battles for the coming year?
  • How do these fit/deliver against the vision, strategic and commercial requirements?
  • What are the small number of big bets that are going to deliver most impact?
  • Clear visual map of the rolling 12-18 month plan
  • Clarity on owners, timing, and tracking of effectiveness

Whilst the above is clearly not rocket science, it has proved effective in shaping and framing better planning outputs in my own world.

So, for those of you interested what of my own venture and my own adherence to proper planning? The answer is the initial start-up months over the autumn has proved a fantastic opportunity to put in place my own disciplines and ensure that as I enter 2016 the work pipeline is looking nice and healthy and I’m maintaining my own focus on ensuring that the overarching vision around a better work/life balance is being maintained. So far, so good.

Like that man Hannibal said ‘I love it when a plan comes together!’

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