Some business gurus have trumpeted that business plans are dead. I understand where they’re coming from. There are companies that spend hours, days, weeks, and even months crafting and polishing a “great” business plan—that they then stick in a box and ignore. Others labor away on their plans and then use them as some kind of holy writ to govern daily life. If something isn’t in the plan, it doesn’t get done. And if reality refuses to conform to the assumptions in the plan, these individuals cling even tighter to the plan.
Good planning, however, is about much more than a bunch of writing on paper. Your plans should include unreached goals and even things like Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs). But they’re are not supposed to be works of fiction. They are supposed to be rooted in reality. If they’re good plans and are executed properly, they may change reality, but they are based on certain realities and have measureable metrics that indicate progress (or lack thereof). Your plans don’t drive your goals—your plans are tools to help you achieve your goals.
Good planning also allow for changes and adaptations. I’m not talking about being wishy-washy with your plans or changing them every few months. But good plans build in evaluation and challenge assumptions so that you’re able to recognize changes in the marketplace and rethink your approach.
Let me say it again: Your goal isn’t to create the perfect business plan. Your planning (in the various forms it takes) enables you to reach your goals.
There is, however, also a personal element to good planning. It’s essential that you, as a business leader, own your plan. If you’re not convinced of and committed to your plan, how can you expect others to follow it? What that means is that you don’t want to be too quick to approve a plan—just so that you can scratch it off your “do-list.”
You’ve probably seen the bumper stickers (attributed to Gandhi) that proclaim: “Be the change you want to see in the world!” And while there’s no concrete evidence that Gandhi actually ever said it, it’s still a great concept for business leaders. If you want to change things, you’ve got to be involved in the mix yourself. You’ve got to put yourself into that plan.
Take a look at your annual, quarterly, and monthly plans. Do they really reflect where you want to take your business? Are your plans flexible enough to adapt to a changing market? Are you convinced of the direction and committed to working (and tweaking) that plan to achieve success?
If not, we ought to talk about how to plan in such a way that your plans drive your goals and help you to achieve significant and sustainable growth.