I’m a fan of the somewhat arbitrary line of delineation between the old and the new year. There is a certain excitement in the possibility found in a fresh start and I approach my brand new planner with the exuberance that others approach a holiday feast. While the latter is an act of reduction, I view all those empty pages, those unassigned dates, as an opportunity for creation. Admittedly my “plans” often extend beyond the time and resources available to complete the list.
I don’t lose any sleep over the unfinished items, that is the nature of stretch goals. In less than 365 days, I’ll have the opportunity to evaluate why I did not complete these items. Most often I find that more important actions presented themselves or that a particular idea was not yet ready for prime time. The real value of a planner is the written commitment to a goal. As the saying goes, “we miss 100% of the shots we don’t take.”
Loss Prevention is a profession of numbers. The numbers represent the measurement of our actions and programs—the target. And although fiscal and inventory calendars vary, most remain within close enough proximity to January first that the new year serves as a reset for our program numbers. Which brings us back to the topic of planning.
I spent a number of years in Client Services. Among the many responsibilities, one of my most important tasks was to measure, analyze, and evaluate the impact of program actions on results. Did changes to X have a positive, negative or zero impact on Y? I discovered that some of a client’s greatest successes did not come from new programs, but in fact, were the result of revisions to existing programs. The staple practices of loss prevention are so because they work. Changes in our environment don’t always necessitate new things, but rather small tweaks and updates to the things we are already doing and the ones that are already working.
If you’re like me, you are probably going to fill your planner with new ideas, new goals and paths to greater achievement in 2014. Or you might be more pragmatic - a reductionist of sorts - who prefers a more specific focus on one or two important goals for the year. Either way, I’ve found loss prevention and personal success by ensuring three important items always make their way to my planner. These items work because they are a critical process in maintaining the positive results of the things we already know achieve results.
1. Clean the Clutter - An LP program is a lot like a house, a closet, a desk, a drawer or any place else we collect and store things. Over time we fill these places with stuff. Stuff we need, stuff we may need, and stuff we once needed, but that we haven’t taken time to decide if we will ever need again. Like that box of old cell phone chargers, those old binders, or those USB cables that once were a premium but now grow like weeds. Sitting around in boxes and files and memos are probably many old LP programs and initiatives. Little things that some people still remember to do, but most have long forgotten. This clutter doesn’t seem to do a lot of harm, but its mere presence takes space that could be better used for new things. Action and agility go hand in hand — agility is best achieved through streamlining and streamlining means reduction. If this is the tenth year a goal has hit your planner then I’m going to make a wild, rash suggestion that you delete it. If you’re LP P&P still has a page or two devoted to VCR maintenance I’d urge you to have it removed (unless you still have VCRs in which case your program may have larger concerns than just a planner can correct).
2. Fine Tune - Each time we do something, our efficient brains create larger and larger generalizations of the action. Over time these generalizations allow us to complete once complicated tasks, such as driving, almost on auto-pilot. While this process enhances efficiency it can decrease effectiveness. In short, some short cuts can reduce the overall benefits of an action. For example, I bet after years of experience you can drive, talk on the phone, drink coffee, and navigate the radio at the same time — very efficient. The distractions however effect your gas mileage (varying speeds), wear and tear (oops pot-hole), and reduce actual safety awareness (out of nowhere that guy just slammed on his brakes). There are several staples in your LP program that you can and should fine-tune. Things like Audit-times may have slipped forward or backward away from their target range. Interview skills, especially related to the WZ script, should be refreshed at least every two or three years (the rationalization section most often takes a short cut as confidence and success grows). There are a host of programs you use that require a yearly fine tuning to ensure the steps are fully used and meet their intended function.
3. Refresh - Today, many things that once had longer term value are now designed for a single use. A good pair of shoes used to make annual visits to the cobbler to be re-soled. Now cobbler is pretty-much a desert item at The Cracker Barrel. LP programs are not, however, consumer goods made of hardened plastic and imitation chrome. They have long-term value, but to maintain their value means they require a refresh each year. Two critical refresh items are the audit and awareness programs. In neither case do we need to re-build the house, but we are well served with a little paint and some new accessories. Audit creep often happens during previous years’ revisions. Our once streamlined, efficient measurement tool becomes a six hour documentary on the life and times of every possible aspect of retail operations. We have added and added and never reduced. Much like clutter, the mass of questions make the discovery of correlations difficult. The new year is an excellent time to refresh the audit. Before we add, however, we must first reduce from the questions that no longer apply and even from the questions that 100 percent of the locations get correct 100 percent of the time. It’s the same practice with our awareness materials. The basic information may not change, but to make it noticeable we should add new layouts, new fonts, new colors and update the verbiage and delivery.
I am a big proponent of plans and goals. I think a written plan is better than a verbal one. The practice of writing down these things increases our commitment and helps us see the potential holes and missed items. The foundation of a good plan is to keep what has worked, but in doing so to apply these three must-have practices of clean the clutter, fine tune the process, and refresh the tried and true. A successful LP year may, in fact, not require anything new, if we can squeeze additional results from our existing programs.