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 the role of President, to Sales Manager to Parts Delivery (Ops staff) 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.

Now that you have completed your narrative business plan,  there are three more things to consider to ensure the plan remains relevant and the planning process gains momentum.

Once the action plans are completed, it’s a important to review how you track your progress and how your company is organized.

First, a brief work about Key Performance indicators:

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 indictors” and review the list on a regular basis. You will soon learn what is important to your success and what isn’t.

A word about Organization Structure:

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 organization 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 year.

Even the smallest companies should have an org chart, although the names in the boxes may be repeated because of share responsibilities. It will help you visualize the importance of balancing the need to drive new business concurrent with working on existing projects.

Now, The Final Step:

Schedule your Business Plan quarterly review sessions and put them in the corporate calendar.

Make this information public and stick to the schedule.

I’ve learned that 90 days is the natural cycle for refreshing your plans. Our world is constantly changing. If your plans are left beyond 90 days, clarity turns to confusion and energy starts to be wasted.

Get into a 90 day habit. Each revisit to your working business plan will add more insights. You will soon get very efficient at this work and begin to look forward to it.

We will review Step 4 of your business plan, completing the detailed action plans.

Step 4 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, 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.

Let’s start with something I call Critical Impediments:

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 any other organization lines, such as division, department, region, business line, etc.

Try brainstorming without limiting the ideas. This will help “prime the pump” as you begin more focused discussion under each Action Plans section.

The Action Plans section of the Workbook is designed to guide the creation of “to do” lists in all sections of your business.

If you are working with a team, this, again, is where brainstorming techniques work well, and then distil the ideas into a manageable priority list

Notice, the format for documenting the action plans has 4 columns (see Marketing Plan,:

The key to success in executing the plan is to ensure that each activity has a “person responsible” for it’s completion, 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.

1st column, 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 late review, but stick to the headlines, not the full story.

2nd column, 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.

3rd column, 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, then defer to a later completion date, than leave them off the list. This is where the “sanity” 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.

4th column, 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, your action plans need to relate to the general strategies listed in the BP 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 Sales Manager and sales team will have a major contribution to the marketing 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 avoid “silo-ing” and keep everyone working collectively towards the corporate goals.

Let’s take a look at the Marketing Plan as an example,

For this work book we distinguish between marketing and sales activities as two different but related processes

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 opportunities for the company

The Sales Plan addresses all activities, processes, and tools to manage an unqualified lead through to the close of a contract, sale, and beyond, into a long term relationship (these customer 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 compete 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.

The last step is to consolidate your actions plans into a single list and identify the priorities for the next quarter.

Now return to your work book and draft your action plans for each section of your business.

Today, I want talk about some of the things that keep business owners awake at night.

Let me start by relaying a story I heard a number of years ago from Peter Schutz, the former CEO of Porsche, the German car manufacturer. He told this story to me and a group of CEO’s a number of years ago.

The allies were flying supplies into war torn German airports immediately after the WWII. The weather was abysmal, near zero visibility. The ground crew was able to guide the pilots onto the runway through their crude radar equipment. It required constant communication from the tower to the pilots. Coincidentally they were part of a study and were being monitored for heart rates. As long as the ground crew kept constant and steady contact with the pilots, about the plane’s coordinates, every 10 seconds or so, the pilots remained perfectly calm.

However, if the radio went silent for even the smallest extra delay, the heart rates rose rapidly to extreme levels; a clear indication that when communication stops, or is ineffective and sporadic, trust plummets and stress increases.

How effective are you at communicating the company coordinates to your staff so they can safely land your plane, while remaining calm and under control?

For many CEO’s , the relentless challenge of communicating effectively with employees, business partners, and financial investors is high on their list of stress factors.

How can you improve the communication and trust in your company without spending unproductive time in meetings?

A good place to start is your business plan.

Your narrative business plan is the foundation for effective communication. It provides context and a reference point that allows you to be clear and consistent so others understand your business and how they can contribute to its success.

When your business plan is fully written down and shared, it touches all parts of the organization- marketing, sales, customer service, and finance and helps all employees understand where they fit in and how they can contribute

Revenue without profit is a dangerous thing.

Every business plan has financial targets in the Goals section. How do you feel about sharing financial information? Many business owners are concerned about sharing their financial goals with their employees.  A common refrain we hear – “If my employees know how much money the company makes they will expect more. I’ll have a line up at my door of staff looking for a raise.”

My view is that withholding relevant parts of a business plan from employees blocks the communication, and adds to the mistrust.

Lower trust affects the company culture in a negative way, which can be seen in employee behaviour such as absenteeism, higher turnover, dissatisfaction with compensation, and overall lower performance.

Employees want to work for a profitable company. Companies that consistently make money offer job security. Employees can plan their future, buy a house, a car, save for children’s education.

So employees like to know how the company is doing, and equally importantly, they want to know how they can contribute to that success, and therefore, their own future success.

Sharing financial information with employees brings with it a responsibility to educate employees about business fundamentals. For example, employees may not understand what happens to company profits – the need to pay down debt, for capital investment in growth, dividends for shareholder investors, and increased benefits for them. (If we do really well bonus money for the employees.)

This isn’t difficult to do, and only takes a few minutes at a meeting or even in a memo

Let’s talk a bit more about trust.

Trust in a company can be a very powerful force. When I think of trust, I am reminded of a high school physics lesson. Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. This holds true for trust. In order to get trust we need to give trust, to be trusting.

If you find that sharing financial information with employees is well out of your comfort zone, and preventing you from openly sharing your business plans, you can present your company goals in other terms, such as, increasing our market share from x to y, or expanding our customer base, number of units sold, or any other metric that reflects financial success in your business

The challenge with this approach is that it can be more difficult to connect the relationship between the top line revenue goal and bottom line profit goals. Employees who are striving to reach the revenue goals without the counterbalance of profitability will not have as strong a commitment to cost control

If revenue and profits are clearly connected in their minds,  their contribution to creative, cost effective,  action plans and other day- to-day problem solving goes way up.

I encourage you to see your business plan as your most important and useful communication tool in engaging your employees and your business partners. Update it regularly and share it frequently and openly with anyone who has a stake in your company’s success.

You will sleep better.

Thanks for listening.