How to forward plan effectively

Are you constantly in catch-up mode? Do you often feel like you’re unable to find the time to focus on the important strategic areas that will grow your business, improve profits and give you your life back?

You might need to look further ahead.

Forward planning can be difficult for many reasons:

  • Maybe you’ve worked your way up through the team to a leadership position or owning your own business and no-one’s taught you how to do it?
  • Perhaps you’re short staffed and working too many shifts to hold it together?
  • Or you’re a master procrastinator, always putting off important planning and decision making because it seems too far off into the future? You know that little voice in your head, ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’?

Whatever the reason, if you’re not happy with how things are now, something needs to change.

With 15 years’ experience as a management coach and consultant, I’ve encountered highly effective and productive leaders who seem to achieve a huge amount with minimal effort. They’re the minority. Most people I deal with in hospitality need assistance and training to learn how to forward plan effectively. I think this is because most senior managers and head chefs in independent hospitality businesses come up through the ranks of front-of-house, bar or kitchen and wake up one day finding themselves responsible for a large department and team, or an entire venue, having received very little formal management or leadership training. They’ve worked hard, picked up what they can along the way, but are basically self-taught.

However, it’s rare to come across people who just naturally ‘get it’ when it comes to forward planning. Most of us need to be taught.

The journey to senior manager usually starts with a promotion from a line staff level role to supervisor, team leader or chef de partie. At this level of leadership, you can get by and be quite effective only looking a few weeks into the future. In fact, in many businesses, there is no expectation for shift leaders to think and plan much beyond the rostered week in front of them.

Once you move up into a senior role – head chef, bar/FOH manager or restaurant manager, you become responsible for controlling more resources – staffing, wages, cost of goods & overheads.

You need to be planning well ahead to manage these areas effectively.

Here’s an example, think about going into the busiest trading period of the year chronically short-staffed. Why does this keep happening?

It’s often due to a lack of forward planning. The crazy thing is, every year, you know you need these extra staff for the busy period, yet you continually find yourself without enough well-trained casuals on the roster when you need them.

In a well-managed business, there’s a recruitment, on-boarding & training plan in place to ensure you have the staff you need when you need them. If your busy period is over summer, you need to start advertising no later than mid-August to ensure you’ve selected interesting candidates.

Then, they need to be onboarded and put through a structured skills training process to learn exactly how you want the job done. If trade starts picking up around late September, early October you’re ready to go and can roster effectively and deliver strong product and service to make the most of increased custom.

For this to happen, managers need to be planning at least 6 months in advance. When you forward plan properly, you can spread the work out amongst your team without it overloading them (or you!).

Our well managed clients have identified the team leaders and supervisors who will be responsible for assisting with the recruitment, onboarding & training of the in-coming summer casuals by mid-year. They’re sent to our How To Choose & How To Train workshops in June and July and then mentored over the coming months to evolve their own skills in writing job ads, conducting interviews, delivering training sessions and updating the relevant procedures and documentation to ensure their teams are well prepared.

If you’d like to improve and evolve your forward planning skills, consider attending our 1-day Productivity Masterclass which focuses on time management, forward planning and delegation skills.

Ben Walter