Planning gets a bad wrap

“It is easy to get an initial lift from a new strategy – the proof is in creating a focus on ongoing review and reinvention as part of the business growth DNA”

The word business planning creates a variety of reactions in people which unfortunately, are sometimes negative. So, when you add words like strategic, vision, purpose, SWOT analysis and unique selling proposition to the mix, there can be eye rolls, sarcastic comments and general cynicism. Can I just say, I understand this and all the reasons for these views.

There is definitely a mysterious cloud over the concept of planning and many different views both to its value and how to prepare the perfect plan.

Unfortunately, there are people who have made a lot of money turning the art of Strategic/Business Planning into a jargon heavy, confusing, content heavy series of theoretical flow charts. These plans are then presented back in a beautifully bound folder that we proudly put on the shelf and often, never touch it again. The scary thing is, if asked, we probably don’t even know what the key priority actions are for our business and have no idea how, who or when it needs to be actioned. As a result, many businesses see a commitment to planning as a “nice to do”; “when things are sorted”; “when I have the headspace and time”; and “when I have a huge budget to throw at it”.

Reality Check

A business with no plan is like driving in a foreign country with no road map. There is no clarity on direction, route or milestones. It is business dominated by overwhelm, frustration and confusion.

Firstly, there is no perfect plan.

  1. The dictionary defines a plan as a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something; or “an intention or decision about what one is going to do.
  2. A plan is individual and can be developed quickly, should be simple and practical.
  3. There should be as much emphasis on execution as development.
  4. The best plans are built with a focus on impact, importance and specific outcomes.
  5. Great plans remain flexible and malleable depending on the needs of the business at a point in time. This important aspect of strong planning is often misunderstood.
  6. Effective plans are a live working document. They should be dog eared, heavy with highlighter and have notes and reminders all the way through. They are a fluid and real time road map.

Right now, we all have to review, reinvent, refocus and execute and we need to do this with a balance of considered thought and speed.

I suggest that if you have been cynical and unsure about planning, that now would be a good time to reassess and its value.

Ask yourself these questions

  • What is my business and how I am different to my competition?
  • Who are my competitors and what do they do better than me?
  • What are the strengths I have that I can build on?
  • How can I add/fine tune or change my business to better serve my customer’s needs?
  • What are the specific issues facing my business now?
  • Which 3-5 are the most important to address?
  • What needs to happen and when to deal with each one?
  • When do these need to be complete so you can move onto the next 3-5?
  • How will you measure success?

Guess what? This is your short and probably medium term plan. No fancy buzz words; just clarity, priorities, focus a need for strong execution and measurement.