You don’t need new ideas, what you need is consistency


It’s that time of the year again! Businesses are in the process of finalising their annual plans for next year. Different companies use different processes to build their plans, but in the end they are all just trying to answer one simple question – what should we do next year to perform better versus last year, and win in the market?

While the question sounds simple, the answer is not so simple. No wonder some people mistakenly think a plan is only good if it is full of new ideas, mind-blowing creativity and never before seen activities. But today, let’s challenge that thinking. Is new always better? Can a proven system not be more reliable than an experiment?  Maybe sometimes we don’t need new ideas; what we need is consistent improvement in execution.

Here is a simple model to help businesses craft better plans by using the power of continuous improvement and consistency.

  1. Review the current year

Let’s start by drawing a simple list of what worked and what did not work in the current year. A few people can gather round a flip-chart to brainstorm and do this initial list.

A typical list will include items like launch of new product, shopper promotion, new team structure, outsourcing of delivery, office renovation, etc. Once the list is ready, the next thing to do is to sieve it – using clear criteria which make things objective.

For example, a sales promotion is a success if it hits the net sales target, while a brand campaign is judged against equity scores or awareness metrics.  Operation projects are judged against efficiency or output versus target, while ‘people’ projects will be evaluated with employee satisfaction scores.

Using objective criteria ensures that whatever passes through the sieve is a true success and there is no room for argument. I have seen a situation where a department loudly claimed their project was a success, but when we looked beyond the surface and checked the original set of KPIs it was a poor performance.

  1. Identify the real success-drivers

Once we have a refined list of agreed success stories based on objective criteria, the next major step is to do some honest reflection and pinpoint the real drivers of success.

At this point ask yourself – we all agree our children’s product was successful, but what exactly made it so? Is it the insight, planning, execution, price, packaging, flavour or some combination of factors?

What if we had the same product but priced differently, would it still be successful?  This test is a way to confirm what exactly made it work.  Talk to customers, stakeholders and consumers to get real answers. During this test, please try to avoid generalisations and answers like ‘the whole thing was just right’.  If you do this, you will miss the key lessons. Whenever you win, always probe further to know why you won – so that next time you know exactly how to win with less effort. That is the power of continuous improvement.

At the end of this step, you will have a simple table with two columns. In the left column you write down the successful activity – e.g., the back to school sales promotion. In the right column, you specify what made it successful. For example, partnering with the student association and a 10 percent discount on reopening weekend.

  1. Fine-tune for next year

If you have come this far, well done.  In Step 1, we built a list of what worked. In Step 2, we identified exactly why they worked. Now in the final step (Step 3), we need to go through what we have so far and pick that which we will decide to execute in the New Year.

Whatever you pick, remember to transfer the key learnings and make room to factor-in anything unique to the coming year. For example, 2023 is expected to be a challenging year due to difficulties with inflation, material prices and currency devaluation.  All of these should inform your plans. This is also the time to add on any other brand-new activity so you can have one complete list of activities for next year.

With this complete list, there is one final thing to do: it’s called the ‘blind-sense check’.  This is when you put your plan on exactly one page, and try to explain it in simple terms to somebody who was not directly part of the planning process but has a fair knowledge of your industry.  If they don’t understand it, take their input and refine. If they understand it, congratulations… you are done.


Years ago, I was project leader for a music programme that toured the country. One day, after a show I overhead two colleagues casually discussing the event as the stage was being disassembled and we were packing our bags.

Instinctively, I rallied the others to join in, and we ended up doing a full review at 3am! Everybody came with one thing to improve for the next show – and we learnt so much from this exercise.  It is a loss to refuse to learn from experience, but we must be systematic to benefit from the learning. This is the power of consistency and continuous improvement.

The outlook for 2023 is challenging. Perhaps now more than ever, we need to go back to the basics of execution – what worked, why did it work and how can we make it work better next year?  I wish you the best in the New Year!

>>> the writer is a Marketing Professional with a track-record of delivering growth while managing or consulting for some of West Africa’s most familiar brands. Eric is a people-centred leader who combines the power of marketing with the execution rigour of general management. He specialises in brands marketing and strategy, business management, communication, media and PR.  Contact [email protected]

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