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Show Me the Page… Literally: The Importance of a One-Page Plan

When I talk with CEOs, I’ll often ask: Do you feel that you and your leadership team are on the same page? Most say yes, so I ask can they show me the page? If you’re assured that your team is all on the same page, cohesively working with clarity towards a concise goal, then can you show that page? Literally…Most cannot.

One Page Plans, also known as a One Page Strategic Plan (OPSP), are at the core of what I do with CEOs + leadership teams.. To grow a business you need a solid One Page Plan (OPP). They encapsulate the strategy, the vision, the culture, and the execution plan for not only the company, but ultimately for every contributing team member. To grow you need strategy across your entire team, and a One Page Plan is the distillation of that vision.

To generate a solid OPP companies need to work backwards. “Ultimately, this plan should tell us…Where do we want to go?” If your company was on a road trip, what’s the final destination? Many call envisioned destination the Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG), a clear and compelling target to reach for. The term was coined in the book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras. At Apex North we refer to it as your North Star. It is your envisioned ultimate goal that can inspire and motivate every member of your team. Where are you going to be 10, 20, or even 30 years down the road?

I remembers when we first started working with Jared*, the CEO of one of our client companies. Jared’s company was struggling to grow despite having significant incoming revenue. The leadership team wore many hats and were building the ship as they sailed it. They were successful but internally chaotic and unstable, lacking unity across their team.

When I sat down with Jared’s leadership team to discuss growth, my first focus was on generating a One Page Plan for the company. With guidance, the team hammered out their inspiring North Star vision and articulated their core values. Square one for scaling any business is generating a succinct but thorough One Page Plan.

Jared and his team have entered their second year of working with us and as they continue to grow they continually return to their foundational OPP. They’ve been able to execute so well that they’ve not only grown, but the health of the company, and health of the team have also improved. We now meet every quarter and recast their priorities within the OPP framework. Jared and his leadership team have excelled at laying down the core 3-5 priorities and ensuring that everyone in the company is onboard and headed in the same direction.

Guiding Focus

Without a guiding document like a One Page Plan, decisions within a company become exhaustive exercises in recreation. Strategies must be recreated, solutions constantly reinvented, all without any cohesion or unity in direction. A completed OPP becomes a set of guide rails for the entire company.

A OPP provides the why within the company. As companies scale and grow, employees can look to the OPP for not only goal destinations, but they can also see the why and the how. The accountability of every team member is embedded in the OPP creating clarity and direction for everyone to perform more effectively and in harmony.

I often get asked when is the best time to create an OPP and the answer is always simple: right now.

If you want shade, plant a tree. When’s the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago…When’s the second best time? Today!

Zoom Out to Zoom In

Once the leadership team generates a North Star BHAG, we work backwards, creating a 3-Year Highly Achievable Goal (3HAG) informing the key initiatives and metrics that will propel the company forwards.

That 3HAG then gets broken down even more, into a 1-Year Highly Achievable Goal which informs a company’s operating plan for the fiscal year. This annual operating plan gets broken down once more into quarterly priorities. At this point, all quarterly priorities are linked directly to the overall vision and direction of the company through the OPP.

We like to describe each quarter as a “sprint” of actionable metrics that can be used to measure progress towards those larger “marathon” visions. Scaffolding weekly “sprints” all the way to 10-20-30 year North Star visions takes intensive workshopping, which we specialize in. The critical metrics that every team member is responsible for in order to keep a company on track to achieve their North Star BHAG is built into the OPP. It is what ties the overall vision to daily tasks, informing the purpose of every action item.

Put to its best use, the OPP should be referenced daily. This enables a team to lean on their OPP as they implement clearly shared initiatives to help keep the company on track. A OPP brings both the forest and the trees into focus.

We of course use an OPP here at Apex North. It allows me to put my vision down on paper to hold myself and our team accountable. Through the exercises integral to generating an OPP, our team is able to develop KPIs and assign action items to everyone on the team. Ultimately, we can plan out the initiatives that are working on the business versus working in the business.

“Think about the ending scene of a movie about your company and about this team. Oh, and by the way, it’s a happy ending.”

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