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Compelling Business Plans That Work

Tips We’ve Learned About Planning

Frustrated with Planning?  The Harvard Business Review reported in January 2006 that only 11% of executives are highly satisfied that strategic planning is worth the effort.

I’m a huge fan of Jim Horan who advocates that every team or manager should have a plan, the plan should be in writing, and that one page is sufficient.  His thoughts are useful, for me, in the context of individual goals and objectives.  Some of his key points:

Most executives look forward to the planning process as an opportunity to look at their business from a fresh perspective

These same executives can’t wait for the process to be finished so that they can go back to meaningful work

Too many planning processes are too complex

It is difficult to find the key issues and decisions in multi-page plans

Plans that are developed for funding are rarely used to run the company

Too many of the plans are ceremonial

Most executives are appalled at the ability of their key manager’s ability to think strategically.

Writing is difficult for most people.  It is much easier to talk about a plan than to write one.

Almost all executives and managers have plans .. not all of them are in writing.

Finding a company where written plans exist, it is rare to find direct linkage between the plans, budgets and executive incentive compensation.

Lots of companies have scorecards… unfortunately by tracking everything, they don’t focus on the key performance indicators that are critical.

Tips we’ve learned about planning…

  1. The greatest value in creating a plan is not the final document. It’s the communication, prioritization, focus, clarity and learning that make the process worthwhile.
  2. Don’t ponder over a blank page.  It’s much easier to put down your first thoughts without judgment, and then revise.  Managers speak the plan everyday. Capture these verbal plans in writing using key words and short phrases. A powerful one-page document can be written in a short amount of time.
  3. Have every manager and/or every team write a plan for their business unit, project or program. If it is their plan, in their words…it’s much more likely to become a valuable tool.
  4. Unfocused businesses typically waste a lot of resources. Focus your team and your assets; the bottom line will improve dramatically.
  5. All too frequently the goals or objectives in a plan are too vague to be of any value. The best goals or objectives are ones that can be graphed over time, like sales, number of new customers, units produced, billable hours, manufacturing yields, and gross profit.
  6. Make the plans important all year long by reviewing the performance and progress against the plan as a part of your monthly management team meeting.

In my practice, we focus first on strategic planning for a business, and then use One Page Plans to create individual action plans for implementation.  It is amazing the productivity that results from what regular review in a positive and constructive environment.