Strategic Planning Meetings
Many agencies who Plan on a calendar year basis have now completed two Monthly Management Meetings and are approaching their Quarterly Planning Meetings in April. Here is a generic preparation memo that you can use to make sure your owners and managers are properly prepared for the next step in the Planning Process, adjusting the Plan for the balance of the year.
Now that we have had your second Monthly Meeting, our next step is to prepare for the first Quarterly Planning Meeting. The difference between the monthly meetings and the quarterly meetings is that the monthly meetings are communications meetings to present the results of each Objective, Action Plan and Benchmarks, the Quarterly Meeting is employed to make adjustments to the Plan to assure achievement of the highest percentage of goals possible during the year.
In the Fall we projected Objectives for each department. We identified the Action Plans that, if implemented, we felt would get us to each of our Objectives by the end of 2007. And we defined monthly Benchmarks that were expected to be achieved if we implemented the Action Plans and if they worked as well as we hoped.
By the end of March, we will have had three full months to test our Action Plans and measure our results. We should now know if a) we, in fact, implemented the Action Plans as planned, b) if the Action Plans resulted in the kind of activity that achieved the position of our Benchmark expectations, and c) whether the financial ramifications of our actions met our expectations so far in the year.
We will continue to report on our Benchmarks at our Quarterly Meeting in April. However, IF ANY OBJECTIVE, ACTION PLAN OR BENCHMARKS deviate from our expected results by more than 10% (in either direction) the owner of the objective must make some alterations (or give some explanations). If our projections are within 10% of our projections, no action (besides reporting results) need be made. It just means that we were good “projectors” of results of our Action Plans.
If your results (benchmarks, action plans, objectives or financials) deviate from Plan by more than 10% in either direction, here are your choices for the Quarterly Meeting;
Rationalize WHY the results differ by more than 10% and tell the group why you think that you will achieve results within the 10% deviation by the end of the year without changing the Objective, any Action Plans or your Benchmarks.
Change your Action Plans to better achieve the goals that you set in the Objectives for the year. Present the new Action Plans at this meeting.
Change your Benchmark expectations if the Action Plans have resulted in activity beyond your expected original Benchmarks
Change the Objective if NO other Action Plans are possible to resolve any shortfall because of inadequate Action Plans.
Change the Budget expectations (higher or lower) to properly reflect your “best guess” of the financial results of your Objective based on the changed Action Plans and Benchmarks or based upon the realities of the year.
Many agency managers end up managing their departments or functions as “bean-counters”. This means that, while they can measure activity and results, they do nothing to pro-actively change or improve performance of their function or department. The most common excuse is, “I don’t know how to control what the customers/producers/carriers do. I can just react to what they do and perform my job as best as I can.”
A Planning agency is one that feels that their managers (whether managers of personal production, of staff or line functions or of departments) have been hired and trained to CAUSE positive change to their responsive functions. THAT IS THE FUNCTION OF A MANAGER! Otherwise we would have “lead workers” who were better at the line functions than the other staff, but took no responsibility for the management of the team or function.
Even sales departments of direct writers acknowledge that while their agents and sales managers have less control over incoming calls than does the company’s marketing and advertising strategies, they certainly do control the number of calls each representative and department can convert into clients. Their objectives are tied to Hit Rates and Conversion Rates – items they can control.
Independent agents’ managers have much more control over their activities and results. They should still pay attention to the service levels and sales abilities of their employees and monitor, measure and set objectives on them. But they also can construct cross-selling and active referral programs with other departments and within their own books of business. Service departments certainly affect Retention Rates by virtue of how they treat customers to show the agency’s appreciation of the client’s business. And more agencies are constructing pro-active mid-year client contact to provide higher levels of service.
So the Planning process differentiates the Bean Counters from the Active Managers. We don’t need a human being to report numbers alone. We seek managers who can cause things to happen that is desired by the agency.