The 5 Truths About Business Planning
In nearly 20 years of business consulting, I have seen strategy and planning from a thousand different angles, but there are 5 undeniable certainties that are always present.
- Planning is Hard
Perhaps it is a sign of our times that we want instant gratification and we underestimate the effort to do something right, but this is especially true with planning. From public, private and non profit organizations, I witness a chronic under-assessment of the level of hard work required to make and execute a successful plan. This truth pervades every level of the plan from a board of directors who think they can create a compelling and successful strategy in a half day session, to a project team who low-balls the effort required for just about everything. If planning was easy, every company, association and charity would grow and thrive every year.
- The is No Such Thing as a Buy-In
Many leaders I work with want make a plan with little or no meaningful input from the people who will be responsible for implementation. They believe they can “get buy-in” after the fact. This almost never works. People want a fair and substantive influence on the plan they will ultimately need to execute.
- People Hat to Be Measured
A great plan works because it is understandable, measurable and crystal clear regarding expected outcomes and the specific accountabilities for those outcomes. Putting such a fine point on accountability naturally puts just about every involved in a state of unease. Your process needs to take this into account and be prepared that even if people want real input as outlined above, they will turn around and resist when their opinion actually helps shape the business plan.
- Making Strategy is NOt a Natural Skill
Employees are promoted through companies because of their operational skills, pure and simple. We must not expect that managers and leaders at a certain level will have an innate skill to plan. The first part in any successful planning effort is education. More importantly, we need to keep our expectations low the first couple times through the process and understand that like anything we will get better at planning with time and experience. Of course better planners make better plans.
- There is No Growth Without a PlanCompanies without a plan are running on pure business momentum. Without a clearly stated intention to grow and the necessary actions, resources and investments, growth will stall. When growth stalls, organizations of all kinds begin to lose relevance and their core reason for being.
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