Benjamin Franklin knew a thing or two about being organised. It was how he managed to fulfil his Polymath existence as a writer, scientist, inventor, statesman, diplomat, printer, publisher and political philosopher. It’s no surprise that Franklin was the source of the following phrase….

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”

Luckily, we don’t need to be so multi talented to develop an aptitude for planning.

We can point to any number of domestic situations where we use planning skills to budget, co-ordinate resources and deliver a positive outcome.

Arranging a holiday, planning a wedding, property improvement projects / buying and selling a home, setting your investments/ pension matters in order, even a trip to the supermarket…these all require levels of planning.

From simple lists to more complicated use of spreadsheets and specific software tools we can all think of at least one event where we’ve used these skills to good effect.

Given this need to acquire and apply such skills in our lives, why are we so bad at applying them within our work environment?  Surely now, having battled through the seismic events of the pandemic there’s no better time to get solid planning in place for your company.

Staggeringly less than half, only 47% of UK businesses have a formal plan in place. [Barclays Nov 2014]

Creating the plan is obviously important, studies show having one in place improves the chances of business growth by as much as 30% [Henricks 2008]

 But this only tells half the story.

Planning is one thing but delivering on that plan is the key and that is a struggle most boards, senior management teams and business owners all have once they’ve set their goals.

Cost-value graph made with white chalk on a blackboard.

Having worked with hundreds of SMEs over the past 20 years I can happily point to many successes, but a common theme crops up. Devising a way to turn the agreed growth plans into an equivalent tactical “tour de force”. As an interim I can step into the breach and work with a client organisation to help achieve goals but it can often prove tough work when the myriad of excuses, obstacles, and challenges “pop up” along the way.

Here are 10 examples of why delivering on a plan is so hard.

  1.  Lack of time and patience
  2. Poor communication from a leadership team creating confusion
  3. Conflicting priorities of the senior team
  4. No ultimate trust or belief in the process due to prior experience of failure
  5. Enthusiasm fades along with focus as day-to-day priorities take precedent
  6. Sabotage by those who don’t “buy in” to the vision
  7. Assumptions made over time, budget and resources required to deliver leading to missed deadlines
  8. Failure to maintain momentum and retain sharp focus on the objectives
  9. Motivation – Employees not understanding how their role could contribute toward the overall goals of the business
  10. Poor or absent application of measurement. Not knowing what success looks like over a short period

No doubt you could add a few more of your own.

It’s tough, I know. There’s the bubble world of a consultant who can float into a boardroom and make entirely logical and articulate arguments for change and set plans away to implement, but then leave having fired up the CEO client to press ahead.

Come the 3rd Monday morning since the plan launched…the CEO is faced with a production crisis, announcement the FD is leaving, upcoming board meeting, marketing campaign that fell flat, unrest from investors, a cyber security threat…sound familiar? That initial excitement of the plan, new vision and growth feels a million light years away.

This conundrum had nagged away at me over the years but I was suddenly faced with an opportunity to address the problem. With enforced lockdowns and sudden luxury of time I decided to dig into the issue and see if there really wasn’t a better way to work with clients. Could I discover a genuinely effective way to turn those great plans into a meaningful road map everyone in the organisation could follow?

I consumed dozens of books written by brilliant entrepreneurs, broadcasters, and senior executives. I’ve been lucky enough to speak to many of them on the HReSource podcast. [See reading list below]


Condensing the thoughts of these authors and applying a little of my own experience I arrived at a hybrid model to business planning that certainly adapts a number of existing, tried and tested processes linked to a practical step by step structure.  It was important for me to step inside the shoes of the CEO, Managing Partner, MD (roles I’ve held), so as to feel the pressures and sense the multitude of issues both external and internal and design a process resilient enough to cut through the distractions but simple enough to be easily conveyed across an organisation.

To test the theory, I put my businesses through the process and applied it to a “live” client matter. I’m delighted to say the results were almost instant. The primary points being the clarity of purpose and a laser like focus on the core strategy helping to prioritise work on the matters that would move the dial in a positive direction.

The process is simple, structured but flexible in that it neither favours an organisation type or size. It’s a framework that can be applied to any business, public, private a cause or project that simply needs the benefit of purpose and focus.

This isn’t rocket science, the wheel of business planning hasn’t been reinvented but my adapted model genuinely provides a framework for creating a meaningful, achievable and implementable plan for growth.

No doubt there are dozens if not hundreds of variations on how we manage and maintain a steady trajectory for our businesses but for now I’m working with and refining my model. I’m comfortable with it and actively applying it to all my future opportunities to help organisations grow.

That problem of planning doesn’t seem such a problem after all!

The Reading List Credits:

#businessplans #Businessplanning #objectives #growthstrategies #implementation #measurewhatmatters #OKR #focusonwhatmatters #leadershipcommunication

Stop Failing With Your Business Planning
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