Business Planning and Flexibility

“Rely on planning, but don’t trust plans”. This is a quote from Eisenhower as he was planning D-Day. This insightful quote encapsulates my message to entrepreneurs and managers about business planning.

Business plans are not just for bankers. Yet most managers tend to toss their business plans in the desk and never look at them again once they have received their funding. I’ve posted before about the value of business plans.  They provide structure, accountability and communicate the goals and objectives of a business to employees.

But as Joseph Badaracco Jr noted in his book “Leading Quietly”, great leaders expect surprises. They realize that although they’ve planned, they can’t plan for everything, and that plans must change as circumstance changes. In trying times, you sometimes must “feel your way through” a complex situation.

To be effective, plans must be living documents. That’s why, for all but the largest businesses, plans must be concise and focused.  For most small and medium size businesses, a plan with overall objectives and five key action items is enough. Six pages. With enough detail that it is clear when the action items have been achieved. That’s it. Concise, focus plans mean that it is more likely that a plan will become an ongoing management tool, not a dusty pile of papers in your desk.

Concise, focused plans also mean that when change is necessary, it is a simple matter to adjust the plan.

Learning to expect surprises and having the resiliency to roll with them is a key part of leadership of any organization.


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