There is so much heavy lifting and energy invested in developing annual strategic business plan and then getting it out into the world that it’s easy to exhale and let the plan run its course.
This is an enormous mistake that can devastate your business.
And this is why implementing a mid-year business review is an imperative for all businesses, regardless of size. An annual business plan must be treated like a living, breathing organism that requires caretaking.
Rarely is the road to success straight as an arrow and clear of obstacles; the road will wind and collapse, trees will fall across it, unexpected, massive rainfall will wash it out, traffic will clog it up, and new side streets and pathways will emerge if one pays attention and thoughtfully deviates from the original path from time to time.
A mid-year business review is a critical part of a plan’s nurturing.
When to Conduct Your Mid-Year Review
It’s important to remember that every business, every industry, and every market is different. Whether strategic business plan reviews are conducted monthly, quarterly, or annually — or all of the above — creating analysis and adjustment touchpoints that fit your organization’s needs and bake in flexibility is key.
In order to maintain flexibility and team engagement, it’s important to keep the review process manageable. A cumbersome business review regimen could become a bottleneck while an end-of-year business review could be too little, too late. It’s a delicate balance, and achieving it could take some experimentation and trial and error.
For many businesses, taking a step back mid-year to review what’s worked, what failed, and what needs to change moving forward makes the most sense. Where “mid-year” lands could differ from business to business, however; regardless, executing the mid-year review consistently and adjusting accordingly is a hallmark of sound strategy.
What Does a Mid-Year Business Review Examine?
A mid-year review should focus on the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that measure your organization’s health across a variety of factors. For the most part, however, a mid-year business review should focus on the following areas:
- The review should generate actionable data relative to performance against your annual business plan’s goals.
- The results of your review should guide the redirection of funding to amplify wins, take advantage of emerging opportunities and cut losses.
- Actions should be focused on driving growth and revenue given the current market conditions rather than what was laid out at the beginning of the fiscal year.
- The mid-year review should deliver new, refined focus areas for your individual contributors and new leadership opportunities for your executive team.
- Smart, agile course-correction is the outcome of a well-executed mid-year review.
The Human Factor, Inc blog frames the importance of the mid-year review this way: “Keep in mind that the primary goal of the mid-year review is to focus on what you can do over the remainder of the calendar year to reach your destination. Too often, when companies fall behind, their primary strategy is to push everything into November and December and hope to end the year with a bang. The further out we look, the more we think we can get done even if we have made no progress to date.”
Breaking down your mid-year review findings into measurable actions that are designed to reap rewards across the remaining six months of the year is critical. This is the whole point of the middle of the year reflection: To make the most of the final two quarters. The worst error when it comes to mid-year results analysis is inaction or procrastination.
"Investing time to stop, reflect, and conduct a mid-year business review amidst a frenetic fiscal year is maturity becoming wisdom."
How to Successfully Execute a Mid-Year Business Review
There are five primary determinants to the successful execution of a mid-year business review: (1) Preparation; (2) Presentation; (3) Transparency; (4) Collaboration; and (5) Follow-up. Let’s take a quick look at each determining factor.
- Preparation. You and your business review team must do your homework and do it accurately. You cannot “wing” a mid-year review. Your data must be comprehensive and accurate. If you come to the table with bad numbers, you and your leadership team will lose credibility and will kill any momentum you sought to build via the mid-year review.
- Presentation. Every staff member is extremely busy in a company attempting to grow. What you’ve prepared must be presented in an easily digestible, highly objective format that can be understood across all departments.
- Transparency. Your mid-year review cannot have a political agenda or gloss over key metrics. Even the perception of bias or duplicity among your staff can kill morale and break its focus. Be real. Be genuine. And be totally transparent.
- Collaboration. The mid-year review process should invite participation and create a sense of ownership and camaraderie among your executives and individual contributors. It cannot be perceived of as punitive or as a scolding from the top down. If done in the spirit of “we’re all in this together.” unpleasant realities and unsightly data can become motivators for future success.
- Follow-up. Creating an annual business plan, then executing a mid-year review that floats off into the ether is a recipe for disaster. Opportunities will be missed, failures will continue, and morale and focus will disappear. If you take the time to prepare, be transparent, and foster a sense of collaboration yet fail to keep monitoring, adjusting and communicating, it’s almost as bad as never having a plan in the first place.
In a recent blog for Entrepreneur, guest contributor Tim Berry wrote, “You have to realize your business plan is wrong. All business plans are wrong. Plans are about the future — and nobody gets the future right very often, so keep the plan fresh and watch closely as reality moves forward. A planning process constantly watches the difference between the plan and actual results. Reality swallows our assumptions and we need to keep track of where, why, and how we were wrong. This kind of tracking becomes the key to management.”
The process of business planning never, ever ends. Managing a business never ends. Market conditions never stay the same and every business plan is simply wrong or outdated or both every week, month, and year.
Perhaps it’s helpful to look at the mid-year business review through a fresh lens: There is no business plan; there is just an unending procession of fleeting tides to success. Successfully riding these temporary waves to shore requires agility, perseverance, and the willingness to head back out into the surf in search of new waves to carry your business forward. There is no static business plan; there is only the skillful adjustment to constant change.
In a recent Forbes article, contributor Bill Conerly sums up the importance of the mid-year review: “Every business plan reflects a tension between planning and flexibility. ‘Plan your work — work your plan’ is famous advice from Norman Vincent Peale. The wisdom is illustrated by the many failures due to ‘chasing rabbits’ or being distracted by things crossing the desk. However, slavish devotion to a plan may cause missed opportunities or even fatal pursuit of a flawed strategy. So business leaders need to find the balance...Don’t be a slave to the plan, but don’t ignore it. When a new opportunity or threat arises, deliberately consider how that relates to the overall plan.”
As exhausting and overwhelming as that sounds, it’s reality; the sooner you and your team accept it, the better. Creating an annual, strategic business plan and executing a mid-year business review to adjust to changing conditions is critical to the health and sustainability of your business.
Creating a strong, strategic business plan and executing on it consistently is a sign of a maturing organization. Investing time to stop, reflect, and conduct a mid-year business review amidst a frenetic fiscal year is maturity becoming wisdom.
All businesses can create an annual strategic business plan. Some businesses execute it consistently. And only a handful are adept at monitoring the plan and adjusting it to throttle losses and amplify wins.
Boardview offers some interesting business planning statistics to consider:
- 50% of leaders rated implementation as equal in importance to strategy
- 61% of respondents acknowledge that their firms often struggle to bridge the gap between strategy formulation and its day-to-day implementation
- 89% say formulating strategy appropriate for changing market conditions is very important or essential for competitiveness
- Only 2% of leaders are confident that they will achieve 80-100% of their strategy’s objectives
Businesses that succeed and grow don’t just execute consistently, they execute thoughtfully, adjusting the plan and reallocating resources to overcome new market challenges and capitalize on emerging opportunities.
So many businesses and executives achieve two important and hard-won milestones — creating an annual plan and executing it — only to fail when it comes to being agile in the face of the unexpected.
“Adaptability is about the powerful difference between adapting to cope and adapting to win,” according to behavioral strategist Max McKeown.
Stop coping and start winning by executing a strong mid-year business review process. Adaptation is the name of the game.