December 05, 2018

The importance of Planning for Businesses

Terri Blackmore

Terri Blackmore
Executive Director /Big Picture Planning

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Many people relegate planning to one the items that most businesses cannot afford. Either because it takes too much time or is too costly. They view planning as something “wasteful” government does. But planning actually saves both businesses and governments (as well as citizens) money. It is essential to have a vision and mission but these must be backed up by a plan. It is equally important to recognize when change is occurring and when you must update your existing plan or create a new one.

 Planning can be broken down into many categories but “Strategic,” “tactical,” “project” and “succession” planning are the primary types used in business and government. Let’s explore these types of planning.

Strategic planning is the identification of long-term or overall aims and interests. The military always views strategic planning as providing a long-term advantage and critical to success. Businesses should view strategic planning in the same manner. Governments using federal funding are required to undertake long-term or strategic planning. There are professionals who specialize in strategic planning. They often see changes coming before they arrive. They also specialize in managing change.

Tactical planning relates to identifying specific actions taken (or a short-range plan) to achieve a long-term or strategic goal. Often more than one tactical action is identified and combined to achieve the goal. Sometimes the tactical plan correlates directly to objectives identified to achieve a goal.

According to SHRM.org, a “strategic plan is a course of action to achieve long-range goals. It should reflect the company’s (or community’s) direction and its purpose stated in its mission statement. Tactical plans represent short-term efforts to achieve the strategic, longer-term goals.” https://bit.ly/2GQRIoi

A saying often attributed to Benjamin Franklin is “Failure to plan is planning to fail.”  Another way to look at it is if you don’t have a goal and a plan to get there, how will you know when you arrive?  How will you know you are successful?

Equally important that often leaves successful people feeling empty is they don’t have a series or stair-step of goals for themselves or their business.  Once they reach their first goal they may feel empty because they are no longer pursuing that which they have dedicated themselves. Really successful individuals rededicate themselves to achieving or working toward a public good if they have reached or surpassed their financial goals i.e. Bill Gates. Others start a new business or add a new component. So one vital strategy is having successive goals. They need not all be financial and can be to benefit the general public or a particular group or goal that you are passionate about. You must define your success and what that looks like can change many times during your life and career.   

Project planning is vital to ensure that your goal for that “project” is reached. Whether it is transitioning to a new software system, adding a new service or entering a new market. Projects most often fail because adequate planning was not completed prior to initiation. Some of the important components of project planning is identifying risks (including ways to mitigate or work around them), stakeholders or customer’s requirements and understanding the tasks needed to accomplish your project goals, in the end, will save time and money. Sometimes businesses can save money using outside Subject matter experts or an advisory board that has many varied specialties. 

Succession planning is another form that is equally important when there is likely to be a change in a critical or primary role or leadership. It is critical that a business plan for changes. One way to accomplish this at all levels of the business is to cross-train so that at least two employees understand and can step in a pick-up essential activities. This is also imperative to allow employees to take a vacation or to plan for employee transitions.

Planning is not a waste of time or money but is important to success personally, in businesses and in communities. 

Comments? You can contact me directly via my ExecRanks profile.

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