Space travel should not be attempted without a detailed plan. What about your business?
In the early 1960’s, US-President J.F. Kennedy declared that the US would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Was this a reasonable goal? Yes… because it happened.
What if he had said Mars instead of the moon? Perhaps that would have been unreasonable and set the project up for failure. But rest assured, an enormous amount of planning went into that project and was partly responsible for its success.
And yet the idea of planning has a rather dull ring to it. It’s unlikely you will generate a lot of excitement walking into the office exclaiming, “Let’s all do some planning!!”
Planning might even imply that you are not “doing”. It may feel like sitting around thinking about the future and speculating on things which you can’t really control. Surely it’s better to get out and have a go… and figure things out later?
And yet we are all beneficiaries (and victims) of (bad) planning. Have you ever chosen the wrong restaurant? Or chosen the wrong hotel on a vacation? Bought the wrong gift for a friend? Arrived at the incorrect venue? Been two hours late for a function? In some cases, a little more planning would have helped.
It’s complicated because there are also situations where spontaneity and surprise can lead to brilliant results. But in business the general rule is to plan meticulously. You might deviate from this plan… but it’s good to set out with a plan in the first place.
What are some success factors in planning?
1. GET THE DEFINITION RIGHT
A plan simply tells us what we’re going to do, when we will do it and who is ultimately responsible. It can be really long and complex or it can be one or two lines depending on the project in question.
2. SET THE GOALS
What do you want the outcome to be? In business, you will probably have a REVENUE and PROFIT goal. You might also think about improving EFFICIENCY (or capacity). But goals can also be about improving your LIFESTYLE or COMMUNITY activities. Goals might relate to SUCCESSION so as to change the equity structure of the business. Whatever the case, be specific.
3. THINK ABOUT TIMEFRAME FOR GOALS (AND THEREFORE THE PLAN)
Six months, one year or two years are all reasonable periods for which to plan. No point building a plan unless there is clarity on WHEN you want to achieve the outcomes.
4. ASSESS YOUR SKILLS (OR COMPETENCIES)
Don’t set yourself up for failure. Planning to go to Mars might put unreasonable stress on you, your customers and your team. The point is that goals can be ambitious but you should take a good look at your skills and organizational capabilities so that your plan is achievable.
5. WHEN ASSESSING SKILLS, LOOK ACROSS YOUR ENTIRE BUSINESS
Not just what you like to think and talk about. Achieving goals will depend on a host of factors like marketing, selling, retaining customers, developing products, building teams and deploying smart systems and processes. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link… so all relevant factors should be considered.