He who fails to plan, plans to fail
Yearly, the Board refines the vision, mission, goals and priorities for the coming year, and work with the GM and Financial Controller to create the Strategic plan.
Then, Managers work within the management team and GM to develop their department Operational plans – defining what specifically (in additional to Business as Usual or “BAU”) will be done in that department to support the strategic plan for the company as a whole.
Managers maintain and execute on their department Operational plan throughout the year and evaluate progress towards achieving the outcomes, in weekly and monthly reports.
Managers must control their time. If they are working off their in-box, they’re working on the priorities of others, a sign of a poor manager! Managers must be sure their staff is working on what is moved to them, or managers will only ever be will be reacting, not leading.
Managers train and mentor staff to be able to deal with all day to day matters (BAU), and are never drawn into the daily grind (a vortex that can suck hours of time with little results). When a new, unexpected circumstance arises, managers take a step back and focus on systems creation and tuning, so in the future, this event can be handled by empowered staff, without involving the manager (again, the temptation is always to do the reverse. Resist it).
Managers also pre-empt problems by developing robust contingency plans that key staff are aware of, so they can be put in place without needing to consult the manager (of course, the manager would be informed by a daily report at the end of the day). They have set approaches in place for what to do if a bumpy time, or disaster strikes, rather than needing time to plan the best response. They know that disaster recovery is enough of a time-sink without the need to include developing new plans in the panic stages.
This allows the manager time to “lay train tracks” – in anticipation of the freight train already on its way (be it progress, change or disaster). The GM works with the manager to establish the destination, the manager surveys the land, marks it out with little flags, organises the earth-moving machinery, lays the sleepers then tracks, so as the train bears down, it never loses any speed.
Managers encourage and stimulate innovation from employees by leading and inspiring, and asking the question: how can we do this better? (“better” may be faster, cheaper, more efficiently, of higher quality, more scalable, more fun, more sexy, reducing workload, increasing automation, and so on). Managers work with employees to create, develop and implement plans that will achieve results, with clearly a defined “utopia” and scope. Of course, planning also covers incidents (disaster recovery, extended absence of staff, expected and unexpected growth or shrinkage).
Plans are developed for large-scale things (for example, launching a new website), as well as small scale works (for example, changing the folder structure that several people use, and everything in between (employing a new person, purchasing a vehicle, organising training, changing the way shoots are organised, adding an additional advertiser for model recruitment, etc).
Once created, the plan may be amended as conditions change, but it is used a guide and trigger for discussion and review. The Utopia is referred to frequently, to ensure the ultimate outcomes of the work stay foremost in staffs minds. Once the project is complete, the Utopia is reached, and celebration ensues! The plan can be re-used, perhaps with revision, the next time we need to perform a similar task.
Professional managers follow the policy and procedure outlined in the Principles of reducing friction by making systems, to manage projects.