For most business plans the document is the end itself. It is such a commonplace of my practice to ask a business owner, or manager, “Do you have a business plan?”, only to have them look around in a bookcase, or in a pile of papers in the corner, in response.
A good business plan is the result of a process in which the management team comes to a common understanding of:
- the business situation
- the value the business provides to customers
- strategies to achieve new business goals
- obstacles to be overcome or avoided along the way,
- tactics to bring the business goals to life – this includes who is responsible, resources assigned, timeline of tasks, and results expected
- schedule of review meetings to measure results and take corrective actions
The plan also provides a common language about the business and a platform to communicate business goals and values to everyone involved, employees, vendors, and customers.
So here we are at the key question:
If your business plan authentically identifies the business goals of your company, how can you put your management team into action to achieve that future as opposed to the future that will come willy-nilly and that almost inevitably is not the one you desire?
As Peter Drucker said about planning, “a plan is only deployed to the extent that it has devolved to day-to-day work” ((paraphrase from Drucker’s The Effective Executive: a definitive guide to getting the right things done (Harper Collins: New York, 2006) ))
Making a Business Plan Become Day-to-Day Work
This is where you the Owner, the CEO must take the lead. Otherwise the plan is just a plan and is not converted into action. If you have done a good job of establishing the tactics, the step by step actions required, you will know:
- who is responsible
- resources assigned
- desired results
- success metrics
- timetable for action
These five items characterize every tactical action. Good project management practices demand them. Without these five elements, the tactics are just a plan, a bit of wishful thinking, they are not in fact in action. You cannot achieve your business goals without taking these practical steps.
By tying your business plan to your existing financial reporting system and project management tools, you will be able to measure results directly. The review sessions are not designed to be dull reports, but opportunities to understand where the difficulties lie and where new opportunities pop up. A review session brings together the management team to work on the most important strategic activities of the firm.
Let’s wrap up.
Your business plan is converted into action through the tactics identified in the plan. These are supported by active supervision and follow up by the Owner, the CEO. Only you can provide the impetus to sustain the management team over the long haul. Without your involvement the management team will fall back to day-to-day busyness and not spend the time required to drive the tactics to reach your business goals.