Many companies put a lot of effort into crafting their annual business plans and then spend more time and energy at year-end measuring results. When targets are missed, they blame the plan. In some cases, that’s the right call, but in far too many situations, the plan was solid but executed poorly—or not at all.

The problem is that many managers are comfortable with the planning process but have trouble actually executing the plan. Look at your own business plan for last year. Did you file it away in a file drawer and more or less forget about it? Or did you make it a living, breathing document that you consult on a regular basis as you manage your business?

In most cases, success isn’t the result of natural talent, innovative products and services, or brilliant strategy. Instead, it grows out of recognizing that execution is an dynamic, ongoing dynamic process, not a static event.

In a 2014 company blog, Kevin Dee, CEO of Eagle, a Canadian professional staffing firm, summed up what it takes to be successful at execution, in simple terms:

  1. A thorough understanding of the strategy.
  2. An attention to detail.
  3. Excellent communication.
  4. Good training.
  5. Hard work
  6. Stamina
  7. Accountability

Don’t just create a plan and then file it away. Turn it into a weekly, monthly or quarterly action plan. Boil it down into a one-page document, with three-to-five key goals with action items to achieve, then put it in a prominent place where you and your team will see it all the time. Hold each other (and yourself) accountable. And celebrate as you reach important plan milestones.

Business Planning and Goal Setting Checklist

Depending on your fiscal year, you may be getting ready to begin your annual business planning process. Have this list handy when you sit down with your team!

  1. What went according to plan last year?
  2. What are key areas for improvement?
  3. What are the key metrics to measure success?
  4. Where are the risks?
  5. Where are your opportunities?
  6. What are your major challenges in 2016?
  7. What are your market assumptions for the coming year?
  8. What will success look like in 2016?
  9. How is your audience changing the way they do business and what are their obstacles for 2016?
  10. What are your competitors doing better than you?
  11. What is your competitive edge?
  12. Does your brand continue to resonate in the marketplace or is it time to refresh?

Do you have anything to add to this checklist?  Share your thoughts with us!