Strategic business planning can sometimes feel like a daunting task. You have so many ideas for your organisation it can be hard to decide how to tackle what, and when.
You may find yourself bouncing between high-level goals that never get filtered down into micro, day-to-day tasks. Or, on the flipside, you grind away each day on small tasks that seem like they contribute to your bigger plan... without actually having a clear plan or direction.
The reality is, for a business plan to be effective, you must take the time to define your big mission – your overarching goals and plans for both your business and your life. This mission must then be filtered down into multiple levels of planning that will keep you focussed each day, week, month and year.
We call this the planning hierarchy, and each level is only valuable because it’s part of the greater whole. Equally, the greater whole is only valuable if all levels are present and well considered.
While all the levels of the planning hierarchy play an important role, they differ in terms of how far in advance you’re planning, the level of detail included and who owns the plan.
Start by deciding what you really want
Each level of the planning hierarchy should be driven by one thing – what you really want. Being honest and clear on what success looks like to you will make your planning easier. You’ll be able to more easily see what will truly support your overall vision of success, and what you think you should include only because others do. For example, most people would see business growth as a must-have goal – but that’s not true for everyone. If you’re looking for more lifestyle outcomes, then a smaller, more manageable business might better support that. Starting the planning hierarchy by setting your overall life goals will help you better tailor your plans to suit, rather than just ticking the boxes you think you need.
Below we’ve outlined the levels in the planning hierarchy.
Succession planning is often the level people miss out. If you’re only a few years into running your business, it’s hard to imagine a time when you might want to exit.
However, ensuring your directors and shareholders have at least a rough idea of what the ultimate outcome for your business might be – and when you’ll want to exit – could dramatically change the decisions you make day to day.
Your timeline for exiting could be as long as 20 years, but if you’re thinking in the shorter term, it’s good to start taking action now – a succession plan can take about three years to implement well. This will let you position the company to achieve the best sale price, tidy up loose ends before you hand it over to your children or other successors, or get your affairs in order if you’re planning to simply shut the whole thing down.
Folding out of succession planning, the strategic plan is driven by the CEO and management. Fundamentally, this plan defines what you want your business to be – its vision. That will include an idea of what your business will look like – its size, structure and function, and perhaps how you want it to behave – its internal cultural, and the core purpose and values that guide decision making.
Strategic planning should also involve evaluating market conditions, including clear steps, challenges or opportunities that the business will come up against, and setting a course for achieving the vision as far ahead as five years.
The business plan is where you begin to put your strategic plan into action. Covering a full 12 months, this plan should be a one-pager, identifying the specific goals you want to achieve, and a breakdown of the projects that will help you do that.
Driven by the CEO and management, the business plan will also set key performance indicators (KPIs). These could be for specific projects, for particular departments or people, or for the business as a whole that year. This will help you measure the success of your planned activities, keep people accountable, and guide your planning for the following year.
Your 90-day goals help you break down your business plan still further. These give you more day-to-day control, and help turn those big goals into achievable and measurable actions tha tyou can focus on.
Driven by the CEO and management, your 90-day goals could also involve other team members, with clear responsibilities assigned. Each quarter, sit down and assess your success – this will help guide how you set your goals for the following 90 days.
Daily, weekly and monthly tasks
Here’s where you get micro and involve each of your team members – the question you’re answering here is, “To achieve our 90-day goals, what needs to happen every day, every week and every month?”
These tasks should be imbedded into your business-as-usual systems, with responsibilities assigned to teams and individuals.
Know what you want, and make some plans
What does success look like for you? Your answer could surprise you, but even if it’s something as obvious as a better bottom line every year, or as ambitious as taking on the world, to get there you need to be working on your business and this is where the various levels of the planning hierarchy come in. You also need to involve everyone in the business, from the CEO to the workers.
From succession planning right down to day-to-day tasks, developing and writing a plan is the best path to true success, whatever that is for you. The secret is identifying what you really want, and taking considered steps to achieve it.
Thinking about putting a plan in place for your business or have a plan but don't seem to be moving towards what you want? Call us – we can help.