Planning is a crucial element in achieving organisation success. It starts by defining the business aims and objectives and identifies the tactics that will be used to achieve the business goals. A key element of planning is flexibility – no plan is fixed and it is likely to be subject to a continuous change in tactics to meet the overall vision and goals. The plan should be brief, easy to understand and able to communicate its aims and principles to a wide audience. Business strategy is easy to define – however, the tactics to achieve the strategy can be difficult to formulate and may require agility and innovation to keep them relevant.

Plans must be communicated to everyone – people need to know where the business is heading and they need to understand their individual role and contribution to success.

Formal business plans need to reflect the intended audience – they should be clear and unambiguous and examine all elements of the organisation, particularly the people involved.

Time spent planning is rarely wasted – a statistic often used is that we should spend 80% of the time planning and 20% doing!

Planning anticipates things that may go wrong and can help formulate measures to prevent problems from getting out of hand.

Business plans usually need a financial element to quantify the timing and scale of the financial commitment and to determine the source of funds and overall financial returns from the business.

There are many forms of business plan ranging from those with several pages to complex reports with many thousands of pages. The structure of most plans is usually the same.

Plans outline the vision, the aims and the tactics that are to be applied to achieve the goals. They will identify and quantify the market opportunity and justify the demand for the product or service. The plan will identify how this need can be met, what resources are required and what can be expected as a return on the investment. Many proprietary plans are available to use as a structure and the “ideal” plan will reflect personal preferences. A number of simple tools can be applied to guide the thought processes – these include SWOT and PESTLE.

I am strongly of the opinion that the value that results from a good plan is not in the end product, but is derived from the thought processes and reflection that take place during the development of the plan.

Remember – you will only get out what you put in!

Finally – don’t confine your plan to the filing cabinet – use it to construct a time phased action plan with quantifiable tasks and responsibilities and involve your team in its achievement. (see performance monitoring).

Some points of wisdom
  1. Create a clear but flexible written plan.
  2. Communicate your plans to your team.
  3. Prepare financial plans including forecasts for profitability and cash flow.
  4. Keep plans clear and simple.
  5. Plan for things that might go wrong.
  6. Prepare optimistic and pessimistic versions of your plan.
  7. Use simple tools to help construct your plan e.g. SWOT and PESTLE.
  8. Summarise your plans into a few simple points that can be easily communicated.
  9. Keep updating your plan in line with actual performance.
  10. Remember the 6 P’s (poor planning and preparation leads to pretty poor performance).

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