I’m a big film fan and one of my favourite clips from ‘The Untouchables’ is Sean Connery chasing a baddie, then gasping ‘Enough of this running sh*t!’ And I’ve read a few articles recently denigrating business plans which put me in mind of that line. So I was intrigued to know why people held this view.
I found some common themes:
- People were discouraged when the planning revealed just how much there was to do
- People saw planning being a waste of time, just done as something to be ticked off and filed away
- Others had had their fingers burned because their plans had been overly optimistic and were demoralising
- Team members hadn’t been included so felt no ownership
- Some plans were scary spreadsheets just packed with projections
- Others felt hidebound by the plan which didn’t evolve with changing circumstances.
- Finally someone quoted Dwight D Eisenhower, ‘In preparing for battle I have found that plans are useless, planning is indispensable’.
And I suppose that there’s the rub. It’s not business plans that are useless, it’s more a question of how good your planning process is. If your plan is just a wish list, too complicated, if it hasn’t involved the team and it’s merely been done to tick a box then I would wholeheartedly agree. But when used well, I believe it’s a powerful tool to give focus and energy to your business.
Planning is the platform on which your innovation and creativity can blossom and shine. And that’s just one of my top ten:
The benefits of Planning:
1. Helps you to spot opportunities
A consistent planning system, and planning calendar, forces you to step off the hamster wheel once in a while and get your head up. To go from being a hamster to being a meerkat, if you like. It gets you to review your progress to date – what’s worked well, what hasn’t, what lessons can be learned. It provides space and time to think – about what you want to happen, what might get in the way, how you can get round any obstacles. It opens you up to opportunities, that you might otherwise miss.
2. Brings individuals and teams together and breaks down silos
All too often, specialist teams, or individuals within a business, even a small one like yours, can get lost in their own little world, and not be able to see the value that others bring to the business, or the challenges others face to get things done.
Regular planning creates the opportunity to bring people together from different areas of the business to review the way work is done from the customer’s perspective and make plans based on what is best for the whole business.
3. Creates a safe environment for new and creative ideas
Meet ‘that’s not the way we do things round here’ – first cousin to, ‘we tried that before, and it didn’t work’
It’s this type of statement that will prevent the flow of ideas in your business, and even your best people will not put their creative heads above the parapet if they know they’ll be shot down in flames.
Your planning system offers a structured way to talk openly about the challenges facing your business, and ask for new and creative solutions to overcome them.
4. Gives everyone the chance to contribute
How motivating and exciting to be part of something that is growing and achieving success, thanks in part, to your contribution.
Involve your team in your planning, and you involve them in your Vision for the future – you give them the opportunity to create it.
How much more engaged do you think they will be? How much more ownership do you think they will take?
5. Exposes your blind spots
We all have them. We can all be blind to our own strengths and weaknesses, to our innate prejudices, to other people’s talents and the value they add; and often we need others to shine a light on our blind spots.
It’s the same in business – we all see things from our own view point, and benefit enormously from understanding how others see things. Planning gives us a framework for this.
6. Puts the customer first
Life planning puts you first. Business planning puts the customer first, and ensures that the focus is on what’s best for the customer, building trust and ensuring that everyone is focused on what really matters.
7. Keeps your products relevant
It’s your customers who decide whether your products are relevant to them or not, and it’s your planning system that will ensure that you check in with them – that you look for more innovative and effective ways to meet their needs and satisfy their wants.
8. Builds a stronger management team
Regular planning, focused on the business as a whole, brings the management team closer, and helps them to see the value – skills, experience and expertise – that they each bring. It’s also a great way of developing them, teaching them to focus on the end goal, and the strategies and tactics that will get you there.
9. Determines priorities
Your planning system is a key element in your continuous improvement cycle: plan – implement – review – plan. You start the exercise looking at what’s possible, and by the end it’s all about results.
You understand your long term goal and you’ve plotted your course to get there. Together you’ve agreed your priorities, you’ve decided on your 90 day goals, you have your action plan, you know your first step. It’s simple and it’s logical, and it’s all about getting the right things done.
10. Builds ownership and accountability
Any effective plan assigns the who as well as the what, where, how and when. It gives everyone ownership for their own little piece of the business – their role, their goal, their action plan.
Ownership and accountability are the key differentiators between a regular team, and a high performing team. Your plan will drive this.
Do one thing: Start planning this week for a successful 2019
Thanks for reading. Have a great week.