I’ve heard it said that “the best preparation for the future is the present well done.” I’m not sure who uttered these words although I often heard it communicated to my children as encouragement to diligently do their homework or prepare for an upcoming test.
This life lesson helps to establish the focus needed to prepare for and position oneself to excel in almost any endeavor. It’s a lesson that is not only relevant for achieving personal objectives but may have even greater importance in the world of business.
Most organizations, particularly large companies, have some form of process in place for conducting strategic planning activities. These activities seemingly fade as we move to smaller and smaller organizations, where although there is certainly some strategic planning taking place, it tends to be less formal and in many cases is ad hoc at best.
Something is happening to strategic planning today. As with all business activities, strategic planning is under assault. The nature of business today is one of immediate deadlines, non-stop activity, 24 x 7 expectations. Under such circumstances, business personnel and line of business leaders struggle just to keep up with the demands of their day to day job responsibilities. Given this scenario business personnel are faced with making trade-offs and often strategic business planning ends up being the odd man out.
Why, you ask? Well let’s face it, strategic business planning is not so excited. When compared to launching new products or services, driving marketing initiatives or attending industry events, strategic business planning is like watching paint dry! Although this is the case, is there anything business leaders can do that rises to the level of importance of planning? Not much!
History is replete with examples of organizations that plan well, focus on doing so and deliver consistent performance as a result. There are also plenty of examples of organizations who have forgotten this important process or in many cases have relegated the process to an ad hoc approach differing from one business unit to another. The results for these organizations – inconsistent performance and in some cases the steady decline of their business.
The reasons to embrace strategic business planning are quite clear:
· It provides a means of scenario planning and setting business strategy for future years
· It provides a set of objectives, strategies and tactics to focus business execution
· It is proven to assist organizations in driving consistent performance
· It aligns personnel in their understanding of the organization’s key focus
· It’s not as boring as you might think!
Over the course of my career, I have had the opportunity to lead many strategic business planning initiatives. Whether for already established businesses or net new initiatives, looking back on these activities, I can draw a direct line from the effectiveness of my initial planning and the ultimate results achieved. Suffice to say, some efforts were better than others.
The time needed to drive effective business planning is becoming harder and harder to come by. In my view this is leading to planning processes that are lacking in effectiveness and by extension lessening the ability for organizations to capture desired business results.
So, this raises some questions. How are you dealing with this challenge? What actions are you taking to ensure that you are taking the time necessary to effectively plan for the future of your business? Do you have a defined and structure process for planning? What’s preventing you from ensuring your future by ensuring the present is well done?
Feel free to share your stories and experiences with Strategic Business Planning. We’d love to hear from you.