The Secret Ingredient of a Great Plan (that too few businesses plan for)

Written by Carol Coughlin. Posted in Business Leadership, Uncategorized

Recently, I met with two clients in the same day. For one, I had developed a turnaround plan and, for the other, a staffing plan to fill a major hole.

I was extremely pleased with both these plans. Each would take its respective company where it needed to be.

Pleased at least until a few questions began to populate my mind:

What if they don’t follow my advice?

What if they don’t have the tough conversations?

What if they don’t make needed decisions?

What if they don’t set up metrics?

What if they don’t follow up?


In other words:

What if they fail to execute?

Of course, when our role includes execution, the BottomLine team is accountable for the results the plan promises – which means, I can breathe easy. But when the project is limited to the plan, the vast difference between a good plan and a great plan becomes crystal clear:

A good plan only sets the right path.

A plan can only be great when that path gets followed.


Next steps are the difference between a plan and reality.

Unfortunately, many companies invest significantly in developing a plan that, at the time, they have every intention of executing, but which never is.   

So, what is the “secret ingredient” of a great plan? The single ingredient, without which, a good plan may never see the light of day?

Successful Plan Execution Requires Change Management

Failing to execute a plan, can easily be blamed on factors such as:

  • Lack of leadership; unclear direction (despite the plan itself)
  • Unmotivated employees
  • Too much else going on; Not enough time
  • Missing skill sets
  • Daily fires that need dosing
  • Inefficiency
  • And all sorts of things

If you look more deeply, however, you’ll see that all of the above are symptoms of a single underlying challenge:

The challenge of change.

The very nature of a plan means that it’s an instrument of change. It’s a set of new actions and what are new actions if not change?

If we neglect to see change management as critical to execution we can greatly underestimate the amount of resistance that might show up – and the depth of culture coaching that might be required.

This is particularly true for growth plans, because these are all about shaking up the status quo in order to go in a new (more successful) direction.

If we look at the very definition of change management the connection between it and execution is even clearer:


Change Management:

The process of transitioning individuals, teams and organizations to a desired future state.

The CEO who recognizes that change management is key to a great plan (a plan that gets executed) is able to begin to address implementation challenges swiftly, taking very practical actions like filling a skill gap, as well as highly “human” ones like ensuring exceptional communication.


This is why BottomLine provides financial coaching to CEOs – it’s not only about helping the person at the helm sort through decisions, but also coaching them to coach their companies through the process of change – or more specifically, through execution.


Your Success Action Step: See if there’s a good plan in your company’s not so distant past that’s waiting to become reality. Then, see if applying the principles of change management more directly might be your best tool for helping your company execute its next steps to the next level of success.

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Carol Coughlin

Carol Coughlin founded BottomLine Growth Strategies, Inc., in 2006 as a way for small and medium-sized businesses to access the same high-level financial and operational expertise that gives large companies a distinct advantage. Using her own extensive corporate experience and willingness to sit in the hot seat as a catalyst, Carol helps BottomLine Growth clients climb to the summit of their success.
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