You cannot fail to miss all the articles online and in the papers and magazines since 1st January about losing weight, getting fit and exercising, and having this as part of a plan and programme for the year.

I have deliberately left this article until late January as most people will have already broken their new year’s resolutions and will need to start again. However, the actual idea of planning for the year and having new plans and disciplines for your business is a good one. The key though is to use your plan, not just produce it and stick it in a drawer!

Not a One Time Document

It is not meant to be a ‘one time’ document, it should be a tool to use in your business. Arguably, just going through the process of planning can be as valuable as the end product. There is a famous quote from Dwight D Eisenhower who said that ‘In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable’

Sports Psychology and Planning

I’ve read many books about sports psychology and sports performance, and it is very clear that all top performing sports people and teams plan everything. They may use different methods but they all plan to ensure they reach they goals.

I’ve had the pleasure to hear from many sports people including Sir Chris Hoy, Lord Coe, Steve Cram, Bradley Wiggins and Debra Searle and they all spoke in great detail about the meticulous planning both mentally and physically leading up their successes. Businesses can learn a lot from the way sports people set their goals and plans.

There are some that say don’t plan at all and don’t produce plans as they achieve little. This is a mistake. The best two quotes I use on the subject are:

‘good plans shape good decisions’ from Lester Bittel

‘fail to plan, plan to fail’ from Alan Larkin

The Four Elements

Of course, if the plan is produced and then placed in a drawer and not shared, communicated or reviewed until it comes out the following year, a business will see no benefit from the plan and it will be a waste of time.

A good strategic plan has 4 elements:

Review where the business is now

it is very important to assess the current position of the business and the environment in which it is operating. External help and views are helpful at this stage to provide some independent thoughts and assessment. External advisors have experience across many types of businesses and this experience can be invaluable

Show where the business wants to go

‘if a business does not know where it is going, it might end up somewhere else’ – understanding the market dynamics and drivers in which a business operates will aid this planning. Look to see where the growth will come from. This could be new products and services and/or taking customers from competitors.

Provide the detail of how to get there

this will show the detail of what needs to be done to get the business where it wants to go, and the additional resources required whether this be people, assets and/or extra funding. These resources can then be planned and obtained to meet the need. Testing the assumptions being used is a huge part of this process.

Performance goals

execution of the plan is fundamental to the process and goals and reviews need to be in place to manage this.

Once the plan is agreed, it needs to be communicated to those involved.

Naturally circumstances change and the plan will evolve throughout its life and for this reason a detailed review needs to take place every month. However large or small a business, a monthly equivalent of a board meeting to assess, review and update plans is essential.

Tips on Planning

Some tips on planning include:

– Force yourself to plan

– Meet away from the office to avoid distractions

– Involve your management team and employees

– Bring in external help to add independent views and thoughts

– Understand your market dynamics, drivers and competition

– Plan the timing of any additional resources required

– Nothing is set in stone. Plans will change and a business needs to be agile

– Execution of the plan is all-important and regular reviews are essential