Critical Impediments

It can be challenging to commit quality time to draft a new plan for your business or refresh your existing plan. The world is constantly throwing objects in our path and we tend to give these impediments a lot of our attention. For many, the ongoing barrage of new challenges to our business (and our lives) can cause us to abandon the idea of writing a plan or revisiting and updating our current plan than has gone stale.

Here’s a quick fix to help get you and your team over this hurdle. At the beginning of your planning meeting, whether you are working alone or with your leadership team, take a few minutes to make a list of the “Critical Impediments” that are currently getting in your way or holding you back from achieving your goals.

You can run through this exercise fairly quickly. We suggest you do this before getting into the specific goal setting and action plans. Try brainstorming without limiting ideas. Use 3-4 word bullet points.

List every current critical issue, problem and challenge that you feel may impede the accomplishment of your overall goals and objectives.

This can be done at the corporate level when you sit down to draft your Business Plan Summary (Step I in the Plan Genie workbook) and also when you start work on the departmental Action Plans (Part IV in the workbook)

Critical Impediments

Issue, Problem, Challenge




This exercise has a couple of useful purposes. Firstly, it provides context for your plans. As you publicly acknowledge and document the challenges you are facing, you, your team, and your entire organization can turn your focus on finding solutions, rather than fixating on the problems.

Secondly, as you and your team transfer these worrisome thoughts from your brains onto a document, the emotional attachments seem to dissipate. This is a very freeing exercise. We quickly start to realize there are ways to work around, through, or over these impediments.

Space station commander, Chris Hadfield, explained that his team spent 4 years planning their six month mission. They were constantly looking at “what can kill us” and planned accordingly.

Photo Credit: Thank you @ellasegal via Twenty20 for your playful Elephant photo. Your work helps us express our message effectively.


 It’s in our DNA. The human brain is a planning machine. We create hundreds of plans each day, some large, some small. We plan our route to work or school, what to make for dinner, a week-end fishing trip, our next hair appointment. We are always planning.

We contemplate a desired outcome (goal), determine how to achieve it (strategy) and take action (execute). We rarely, if ever write these plans down, totally unnecessary for the multiple small, simple, plans we action every day.

As our plans become larger, more complex we occasionally write them down.

Here’s an example we can all relate to: our weekly trip to the supermarket.

It starts with a goal:  we need food, replenish the pantry, to feed our family.

A senior executive (Mom, Dad) jumps in the car and heads to the supermarket with a vague plan bouncing around in his brain. He grabs a shopping cart and starts to execute on his plan.

Up and down the aisles he goes, somewhat randomly tossing items in the cart, making moment by moment decisions. (he’s an entrepreneur and takes pride in his ability to make decisions on the fly)  – a little of this, some of that, maybe one of these. Look, on sale, I’ll buy three!

Oh, that’s new!  I’ll give it a try.

Whoops, forgot the butter, back to the dairy section.

Now he rolls into the check out and begins to stress over the unrelenting rising price of groceries.

Back home, as the goods are unpacked, the accusing voice “where’s the coffee!”, followed by hasty return to the store.

Let’s compare this plan, to a similar one, only this time we write our plan down.

We start with a review of our current situation, then make a list. Check the pantry, the fridge, contemplate the meal requirements for the next week. Next, we organize the list by category, meat and poultry in one column, then fruit/vegetables, dairy, other. This will save time in execution at the supermarket.

Now, let’s ramp this planning process up a bit. Put the list on the fridge door so the whole team can get involved. The plan is updated and refreshed on a regular basis throughout the week.

After s few months of experience with this, we decide to make a further refinement, what if we had an overarching purpose (our why) to guide our decisions.  Something like, “ maximum nutrition that will promote, strong, healthy energetic lifestyle for our family”. Over time, chips and cheesies disappear from the list, replaced by fresh fruit and healthy nuts.

Now, we’re ready to execute. With list in hand, off we go to the supermarket. We save time, money, and get better quality results.

Better still, the family executive, Mom and Dad, can delegate the execution of the plan to their senior team members, son or daughter, and spend the day in the garden, go for a walk on the beach.

If this shopping project works better when we invest a few minutes to document our plan, and implement an ongoing planning process,  imagine the impact on your business if we develop the skills and habit of “running our business from a written plan”.

Research shows the probability of success goes up by 30-50%.

Your written plan is the foundation that builds team alignment, accountability, and clarity of direction.

It’s time to get started. Improved results will soon follow.




The purpose of an organization structure diagram is to clarify areas of decision making responsibility, reporting lines, and assist communication throughout the company. It is intended to help all employees understand how they can best contribute to the overall company goals.

Each individual will typically have primary responsibilities in their area of expertise, however, it is important to be able to respond to changing priorities and contribute to other areas as needed.

For example, everyone in the company can be unofficial marketing and sales agents for the company, although that may not be their primary area of responsibility.

Similarly, all employees are responsible for ensuring you meet your customer service promises.

Most private sector companies are organized around four business areas:

Marketing, Sales, Operations/Customer Service, Finance and Administration.

Your organization structure may vary depending on the size and type of business.

In small companies, individuals may wear several hats, and need to jump from one role to another (President, to Sales Manager to Parts Delivery) all in the course of a day.

Your Organization diagram will help you be more aware of these changing roles and help you plan recruiting priorities as your company grows.

Note: Larger companies may need a consolidated corporate structure in addition to a detailed department/division diagram.

As you assign responsibilities for the action plans, questions may arise around how the company is organized and what people or other resources may be needed to get the job done. This is a good time to review your orga- nization chart, and make changes that will support the plan. Once you are clear about your goals and the action plans, planning future changes to the organization structure is a fairly straight forward task.

One way of doing this is to draw the current org chart, and then a second one that reflects changes you may need to make over the next 1 to 3 years. Even the smallest companies should have an org chart, although the names in the boxes may be repeated because of shared responsibilities. It will help you visualize the importance of balancing the need to drive new business concurrent with working on existing projects.

Although this is the last piece of your business plan, it is one of the most important. It clarifies the accountability aspect and ensures everyone knows who is their immediate manager.

Most companies organize their people around the 4-5 functional areas. See the sample organization chart that follows, then create your own!

We all like to know how we are doing, from the CEO to the sales team, the service reps or the admin group. The business plan provides the reference point to measure your progress. Take a look at what you are tracking. Is it relevant and meaningful? Look for the activities that drive the business, that have the most impact on results. How are you tracking those activities? Make a list of these Key Performance Indicators and review the list on a regular basis. You will soon learn what is important to your success and what isn’t.

Your Marketing Plan is any activity that builds the company brand and involves communication with your existing clients and new prospects with the ultimate goal of generating new business opportu- nities for the company.

The Sales Plan addresses all activities, processes, and tools to manage and follow through to the close of a con- tract, sale, and beyond, into a long term relationship (these customers for life that we all want).

The workbook is designed to help you target specific goals within each business area, that are meaningful, and practical for each business section, and also support the larger corporate goals.

For example, the marketing plan may have its own 12 month goals:

  • Increase the number of new leads from x to y (use quantifiable language whenever possible)
  • Develop a social media component to our marketing program
  • Launch marketing campaign in new region
  • ??

Again, there is a thin line between a goal and strategy, the “how to do” it part. Don’t spend a lot of energy on the semantics. The key is creating a to-do list, select a champion to lead the project, and set a reasonable completion date.

Once you compete this section of your work book, you will have a complete set of action plans that address all aspects of your business. You also have the tools you need to help everyone understand their contribution to the whole picture, and how their fellow employees are involved in moving the company towards its goals. The stage is set for collaboration between departments, as everyone has a clear picture of what needs to be achieved.

Plan Genie will consolidate your actions plans into a single list and identify the priorities for the next quarter.

The format for documenting the action plan has 4 columns.

The key to success in executing the plan is to ensure that each activity has a Person Responsible for its comple- tion, and a completion target date. Bear in mind, the person responsible may not be the person who performs all the tasks within that action item, but is the ultimate owner of the project, and must report out on the result at the next plan review session.

Column #1 ~ Discussion/Action Item: Here you capture a short description of the activity, perhaps with the rationale. You want enough information here to easily pick up the discussion at a later review, but stick to the headlines, not the full story.

Column #2 ~ Person Responsible: The individual who is accountable for ensuring the action item is carried out and will report back at the next review period. Remember, this person doesn’t necessarily do the work, but ensures it gets done, calling in any other resources, internally or externally, as needed.

Column #3 ~ Completion Date: Although we recommend quarterly reviews, not all action items may need to be competed each quarter. As you assess your priorities, and resources, you will find some activities will need to wait until later in the year. It’s better to record the items needed to be done, and then defer to a later, completion date, than leave them off the list. This is where the “happy” part kicks in. It’s a huge stress reliever when you see all the work that needs to be done, scheduled over a realistic time frame, that everyone understands.

Column #4 ~ Cost: This column can be used to flush out potential capital cost investments or added resources. The intent here is to identify potential cost areas, not to focus on actual numbers. You will find this a helpful tool for budgeting.

Remember that your action plan needs to relate to the general strategies listed in the Business Plan summary. They can be organized directly from the broad strategies list in the BP Summary document, or you can follow the Workbook format, and , each department can create action plans that support the larger strategies listed in the Business Plan summary.

For example, the business development manager and sales team will have a major contribution to the market- ing and sales plans, but could also have some action items that relate to improved customer service, or financial controls. Similarly, those working more on the operations side of the business, may have action plans to support the sales or marketing goals of the company. Needless to say, you want to avoid “silo-ing” and keep everyone working collectively towards the corporate goals.

Before jumping into the specific action plans, we suggest you spend a few minutes listing your Critical Impediments. This can be done on a corporate level, and, in larger companies, by the other organization lines, such marketing, sales, operations , etc. Try brainstorming without limiting the ideas. This will help “prime the pump” as you begin more focused discussion under each Action Plans section.

Tip: Space station commander Chris Hadfield explained that his team spent 4 years planning their 6 month mission. They were constantly looking at “what can kill us” and planned accordingly.

Note: you won’t find a S.W.O.T. Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) in Plan Genie. You have already identified your strengths in your Unique Business Proposition and Purpose. Your opportunities are found in your goals and strategies. Critical Impediments captures your threats and weaknesses

Completing the detailed action plans, is where you can fully tap into the talent and resources of your employees. The approach you take will depend on the size and structure of your company.

If you are organized around traditional departmental lines, such as marketing, sales, operations, people, and finance, the action plan format in the workbook will work well for you. In smaller companies, these departmental responsibilities are shared and individuals may have several roles. However, following the workbook will ensure you cover all areas in a coordinated set of action plans.

Technology: All activities, processes, tools related to advancing the company’s capability via technology support systems.