You’ve prepared a business plan for a promising new entrepreneurial venture. You’ve got funding and the blessing of your CEO and Board to go ahead with this high-profile “experiment”. Your venture could be a growth engine for your corporation’s otherwise large but slow and steady core business.
Then you start worrying.
Even though there is a three-year execution horizon, they expect results in the first year. In fact, given the risk-averse culture of the organization and the tough market environment, you suspect they will likely re-evaluate within six months. So, realistically, you have to show progress before the mid-year cost cutting exercise. And even though you have been assured that your business will be treated differently since it is “like a start-up”, you have a lingering feeling that your business may be targeted before it can really demonstrate traction.
What can you do?
Here’s where Mission Analysis can help. Mission Analysis — the foundation to the Military Decision Making Process — is a seventeen-step process, in which the military commander begins his battlefield visualization, and the staff defines the tactical problem and determines feasible solutions. At its core, it is essentially an objective-setting and tracking tool, and I have used a modified 5-step version to run my own businesses, as well as my clients’ new ventures. I found it to be helpful because it bridges the gap between Big Company Processes, and smaller entrepreneurial start-up goal-setting.
For the large organization, Mission Analysis gives the necessary reassurance that there is a plan in place with specific measurable deliverables, which can be translated and absorbed into the overall planning process of the corporation. It helps ease the uncertainty around the stereotype of the “swashbuckling start-up that’s experimenting with various business models, and gaining access to some of our most valuable, stable customer relationships”.
For the entrepreneurial new business unit, Mission Analysis gives the necessary focus to demonstrate progress and success inside a large company by assigning tangible, step-by-step deliverables that approximate the funding rounds and deliverables of a venture-backed start-up. Here are five steps an “intrapreneur” can take to create a Mission Analysis that satisfies the concerns and needs of both the corporate parent as well as the entrepreneurial business:
Begin with the “What,” a clear and actionable mission for your business. For a business incubated by a large company using an annual funding cycle, you generally need a one-year mission that clearly articulates to direct reports and colleagues what you are aiming to do and what the result should be. For example “Our mission is to launch a new U.S. Consumer Healthcare Data Aggregation and Predictive Analytics business, and build awareness and adoption in order to achieve $X million revenues in 2014″. This fictitious example already signals that 2014 will be about building a product, marketing it, and demonstrating key customer willingness-to-pay by targeting a tangible revenue goal. There is no mention of margin, hence profitability is not one of the main drivers for 2014.
Follow with the “Why” to describe the background behind the mission. This is called the “Strategic Intent”. In a nutshell, it is your “raison d’être”, your purpose. In larger companies, it could simply be put as your boss’s mission, and your boss’s boss’s mission. These cascading missions should dovetail seamlessly; if each direct report in your team succeeds in their specific missions, you should automatically succeed as well.
Specify your Objectives, Measures and Targets, all on one table, ideally on a single page.
- Objectives define the ideal end-state for the mission. For example, “Validate Willingness-to-Pay with Pilot Customers” clearly signals that you need to test their offering with a handful of carefully picked customers and ensure that they sign on the dotted line.
- Measures indicate quantitatively the level of progress towards achieving the objectives — and will ultimately drive employee behavior. For the objective described above, a tangible measure could be: “Percentage of Pilot Customers who are converted to Revenue Generating Customers in 2014″.
- Targets are the specific level of performance we wish to achieve against any particular measures. So in this case, an appropriate target could be: “75% of Pilot Customers subscribe to the service in 2014″.
As with any start-up, don’t be surprised if these OMTs change through the year based on course-corrections, so be prepared to update them accordingly. Just remember that proper justification should be given for the course correction. It’s acceptable (and advisable!) to change course if your team finds that willingness-to-pay was significantly less than anticipated. On the other hand, it’s obviously not a good idea to change objectives if you simply didn’t complete the test in the planned timeframe.
Elaborate by identifying your Implied Tasks, Timelines and Resource Requirements, again, ideally in one table on one page. The aim of this part of the process is to structure the way in which the team approaches the delivery of the mission.
Implied Tasks are a listing of the granular actions required. In the example above, they would outline (among other things) the process of targeting customers, approaching them, enabling them for usage, obtaining feedback on price points, and ultimately having them buy.
Timelines should be assigned to these tasks, e.g. “by Week 15”, or “by end Q2 2014”. The scope of activities and timelines would lead to an estimate of the internal and external Resource Requirements.
Finally, describe your “Freedoms” and “Constraints”. A “Freedom” is a factor that helps to achieve the mission, e.g., a dedicated, autonomous team, or high-level sponsorship from an influential partner. A “Constraint” is a restriction that is placed on the freedom of action for the team in delivering the Mission. Examples of constraints are regulatory, legal and ethical issues, or infrastructural or technological restrictions. These are not meant to be “disclaimers” for being unable to succeed; they are legitimate issues that need to be tackled or planned around.
By following these five steps, you will have a solid plan to move your new venture forward. Mission Analysis, when used in this context, forces intrapreneurs and their executive sponsors to focus on tangible deliverables. The credibility of established business processes gives additional assurance to a large process-driven corporation — while allowing the intrapreneur to maintain the razor sharp focus of a start-up looking to nimbly capture a market opportunity.