Busted brackets and business planning

My bracket is busted. Not officially, as some Sweet Sixteen games still need to play out, but Michigan getting rolled by Texas Tech eliminated one of my Championship Game teams, and I was not exactly lighting the bracket on fire leading up to that point. Add to it that my 8-year-old daughter is looking like she has a future handicapping games for Vegas sports books and is on pace to win our annual Thompson family “Winner Chooses Breakfast” bet, and my lofty opinion of my own NCAA knowledge is taking a hit.

My brackets are typically haphazard; there is no clear plan or strategy. I go with my gut, picking upsets on a whim, and generally make my picks five minutes before tipoff of the opening round games each year. . . . and the results show it. Many of the “bracketologists” and experts (not surprisingly) take a different and more thought-out approach. They start by selecting their Championship and Final Four teams, and work the brackets backwards, filling in game winners as they go through the rounds, ending with the first round games. Since most pools weight picks heavier as the tournament goes deeper, this is a smart way to plug in the most important teams, rather than randomly working through the tournament from start to finish.

This same strategy holds true in building plans for your business. When building a plan for growth and success, don’t start with what you need to do today; start with your long term Goals, with your ultimate Vision for the business. Visualize where you want the business to be in a given timeframe (3 years? 5 years? 10? 20?), and look at it as if you have already reached that goal. Look back on the journey, at what needed to happen to reach the goals that were set. What needed to be accomplished? What constraints had to be overcome? What changes, improvements, or additions needed to be made to allow the business to move forward? What smaller goals needed to be reached, and by when? What were the timelines for projects and the deadlines that needed to be hit? What actions needed to be taken? Work the process backwards, noting what needed to occur, and by when.

The end result will be a clearly defined framework of everything that will need to occur in order to reach your stated goals, starting with the actions that need to be taken immediately. From there, it simply comes down to action, to taking the steps needed to move forward and accomplish your goals.

Build your strategic plan like you would build a good tournament bracket; by starting with the end in mind and working backward to the present day. Make the steps, actions and timelines clear, and you will end up with a plan for your business that will allow your team, your company and yourself to move forward successfully. . . . and may even impress an 8-year-old bracketologist.

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