By Phil Cheesman
Why plan at all?
“Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.” (Dwight D Eisenhower)
A plan shows the process we have followed to decide how we are going to get from where we are to where we want to be. This process structures our analysis and thinking to make sure we have considered all the angles and to challenge our assumptions and pre-conceptions. Business planning is an opportunity for us to make sure we know what we're doing and that we have left no identifiable stone unturned.
Plans should be dynamic - growing and changing with our business. We are entrepreneurs after all and we need the flexibility to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. But we have to take calculated risks – not just guess – and the planning process will help us to identify and manage the risks involved in the options available to us. Surely that's worth some of our time?
What do we mean by strategic planning?
Strategic or long-term planning is about general direction and not specific actions. It's like planning a journey by identifying waypoints to pass through so that we can measure our progress. In strategic planning, our destination is referred to as our business vision and waypoints as goals or milestones. Once we have our strategic goals, we can then write short-term plans with specific, scheduled actions to achieve each one. I'll talk more about short-term planning next time.
Why do we need to plan strategically?
Without a strategic plan, how can we know whether what we're doing is taking us towards our vision or away from it? Running a business without a strategic plan leads to chaotic management, lots of failed or unfinished initiatives and constant firefighting actions. Some of us might recognise these symptoms!
How do I find the time to plan strategically?
The very act of following a strategic planning process shows us where we can create the “headroom” to work on our business instead of in it all the time. We just have to schedule some strategic management time into our week and stick to it. I'm always amazed at the clarity and purpose this brings to everything I do. Think of the hamster in the treadmill – it doesn’t start getting somewhere until it steps off the wheel!