Most of us weren't around during World War II … but D-Day was the largest amphibious invasion of all time, with over 250,000 troops and 15,000 ships landing along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast on June 6, 1944. Luck? Accident? … or the result of rigorous strategic planning and project management?
Did General Eisenhower, the Allied Supreme Commander, lead this effort without any planning?
Of course not, and even if our business plans aren't quite as extensive, we know (deep down, we know for sure) that we need some sort of an organized planning process to build a successful business.
We need to make sure that everyone's headed in the same direction … that we don't ignore the obstacles or overlook the great opportunities on the road ahead … or don't squander valuable resources chasing rainbows.
That's why you should listen to our 5-part podcast series that demystifies planning and describes a simple discipline to get you started.
Do I really have to plan to have a successful business?
I find myself using General Eisenhower's phrase repeatedly for at least two reasons … it's true … and it reflects the view of most executives about plans … they're useless! Most of us get that rumbling feeling in our stomachs when we think about the planning process. A lot of that comes from past experiences with ponderous, tedious, painful planning processes that wasted a lot of time … and worst of all, were never implemented.
We plan to meet … and then meet to plan … but there’s no plan!
I remember meeting with a senior executive at a client's office recently who surprised me when she told me they held an annual strategic planning every year. They brought in all of the troops from different parts of the country and reviewed their plans and ideas for the next 12 months.
I was rather stunned to hear this because the CEO earlier told me they had no plan, which was why I was there. So, I probed a little more with this executive to learn about her experience and what came out of it each year.
“Oh, nothing”, she said. “We never did anything with it. We spent most of our time reviewing what we said the previous year and wondering why nothing happened with it!”
Ideas are not plans … and plans may not be a strategy
A little history lesson reminds us that an awful lot went wrong on D-Day, and even more thereafter … yet, the Allies were ultimately successful. Without a resilient plan that was continually modified and updated as circumstances changed … the Allies would have failed and we would have faced a cluster of truly global proportions.
Does Jabberwocky help? Brainstorming? Strategery?
So, what shall we call this miserable planning business? Jabberwocky? Brainstorming? My favorite, Strategery? Whatever works to make planning more accessible and less intimidating is what you should use. Make up a name … create an iconic character … do anything to make it an energetic, fun and invigorating process that really puts the company in the driver's seat to achieve greatness.
Here’s the thing about planning:
- We've got to have a target at which to aim … and we've got to find some way to separate the crappy ideas from the good ones.
- We've got limited resources, so we can't go after everything.
- We need to apply consistent criteria to every idea and opportunity so we don't … choose something that we're good at but that everyone else is already doing … or something that no one else is doing but that we don't know the first thing about.
- What's most painful of all is that if we don't arrive at a few strategic choices that differentiate us from everyone else, we'll have to start over.
With limited resources to invest, we can’t afford to screw this up
That's it in a nutshell. Relying on gut instinct or picking favorites only works if you have unlimited resources and can squander them without consequence. Sadly, that's not the ship most of us are steering.
It's a cliche, but we've got to ”get the biggest bang for our buck”. We know that the benefits of some of these initiatives will not come quickly, so in addition to focusing our limited financial resources, we need to avoid chasing rainbows so we don't also invest a bunch of time only to discover that it was wasted effort and we have to start over.
Do I need a consultant to tackle this?
About now, some of you are saying … “yeah, yeah, you consultants are always trying to sell some big strategic planning project”. Not hardly, my friend.
This does NOT take a big planning project, an Ivy League MBA or the GE auditorium. It does take some dedicated time to evaluate the opportunities you have to build our business. To do that effectively, you do need to use consistent criteria … but you can get it done yourself if you devote the time to it. At the same time, don't avoid getting outside help if you need it because the cost of not doing it is far greater than the investment to get it done right. But above all … DO IT!
Start with our 5-part Building a Business Podcast Business
In less than 30 minutes, you can listen to all 5 of the episodes in this podcast series by visiting our Learning Center. We've also provided a transcript of each podcast that you can download for convenient reference.
Start with First, Kill All the Strategy Myths. Then, turn to the next 4 episodes that describe the important criteria to evaluate the opportunities to build your business:
– assess the competitive landscape, and
– consider the external, and often less controllable, forces that affect your businesses … industry trends, markets, demographics, technology changes and other external factors.
This is the first step to setting your Strategy Statement and beginning the outline of your Action Plan. If you get bogged down in getting this off the ground, drop me a note and I'll do my best to help you get started.
Have you tried this before? What happened? Did it work? Did you really execute the plan and get the results you wanted?