End of the Year: Taking Inventory

End of the Year: Taking Inventory

For many businesses each year goes by and a “list” remains of the issues and goals they’d like to have addressed. For many though, the items stay on the list and just get moved from one year to another in the hopes that time will free up in order to address them.

So, well in advance of the time to make a new year’s resolution, we offer some tips to ensure that you know what you need to do and are able to so clearly identify your goals, that you can then create a workable implementation plan and get things done in 2010!

Start by doing this 4-step assessment:

  1. First step in the process is to understand your firm’s “wish list”. What would you like to accomplish if time and resources were no concern? What obstacles do you continually face? At this stage just make a random list of all of the things that continually hang over the firm — things you know should be done but you never seem to get around, collectively, to address.
  2. Next look at the list and categorize as follows:
    1. What are those things out of your control (i.e. something happening in the industry, an illness among a staff member, etc.)
    2. What are those things you can’t control, but can influence? These are things you can’t go and fix immediately because you don’t fully control them, but you are in a position to influence them. For example, maybe you want to implement a new budgetary process but you aren’t the CFO — one way to influence would be to put together a presentation showing the benefits to the firm of doing things differently. You can’t make the decision, but you can influence the decision.
    3. What are those things you can fully control? These are the things you know are completely within your reach to change immediately if you had time and focus for them. These are things like hiring the person you need to work alongside you, or changing a policy in your own department.
  3. Next take the list of things you can control and prioritize. What are the top three items that if you could meet these goals, or remove these obstacles, it would have the most impact on your business? This is the key step — taking the random list and making some sense out of it based upon priorities and “highest impact” things.
  4. Now look at the second category, things you can’t control but can influence. What things on this list would be the three highest priorities? Go through the same thought process here and identify those most important issues.

Now, let’s consider the defining parameters — the real world issue of time and resources. Overlay the priorities you have identified with the staff, bandwidth and time you have to devote to them. As you assess this in combination with one another, wherever you don’t have what’s necessary, you must drop it off the list.

This is the number one area where firms — and people — get tripped up in their quest to make change happen. If I simply don’t have the time or resources but I continue to carry something on my list from day-to-day, year-to-year, I will merely frustrate myself and find myself unable to accomplish any of the things that matter. We must look at issues and apply the reasonable-ness test — what is actually possible for me to accomplish?

If you find something on the list that you know to be a top priority for your firm, but it doesn’t meet the time and resources test, you may need to take a hard look at the overall operation of the firm. The important things should be finding the resources necessary to accomplish them. If they aren’t, a deeper assessment is needed to understand why.

And, after you finish the process, the remaining list — your “To Do’s” for 2010 should only be the resulting items. These should be the clear priorities within reach — with time and resources bands arranged so you are clear that they can be done.