In recent posts we’ve talked a lot about making sure your business plan clearly and closely reflect your business purpose, vision and strategy. That’s the underlying philosophy behind all the coaching we do here at BusinessBlades.
Get it right, and you’re well on the road to success. But it doesn’t guarantee success.
While it might sound obvious, your business plan is what it says on the label - a plan. And like any other plan, it’s doomed to failure if you don’t keep an eye on how it’s tracking towards its intended outcomes.
In our experience, there are two traps with the most potential to bring a business plan unstuck:
There’s other things that can work against your plan, but these two are in our experience the most common traps.
1. Measuring the wrong "stuff"
Your business plan should contain a bunch of action plans and objectives designed to support your strategic intent and move you closer to achieving your purpose and vision.
And every management text book will tell your objectives should be, apart from other things, measurable. Which is fine, but sometimes it’s more than numbers that tell the story.
Here’s an example….
Let’s say your business wants to improve engagement across the team as one contribution to more positive customer interactions, to create more new and repeat sales. You’re doing this because all the evidence says overall business results are clearly linked to engagement levels. So you decide to run an engagement survey. So far so good.
You decide the key measure of success from this initiative will be the team response rate - if you get 90% or more of your team members responding to your survey you and the rest of your leadership team will pat yourselves on the back and consider the job well done. After all….if you get a high response rate, then people must be engaged…right?
But….what if, even with a 90% response rate, when you next set out to measure engagement, there’s no discernible difference? What if, in fact, engagement levels drop? What then?
This is a classic “measure the wrong stuff” situation. Of course everyone reading this post will say that’s obvious….that the true measure of success in this example would be some level of improvement of engagement as a result of initiatives the business puts in place following the survey.
2. Failing to adjust your plan
You and your leadership team (and hopefully some other team members as well) put a lot of effort into producing a business plan with its prioritised action plans and objectives. It’s water-tight and as long as everyone does what they’re supposed to, you’ll end the year on a high.
Not so fast…
There’s plenty of “X factors” that can impact the ongoing relevance of some aspects of your plan.
Those factors can be internal (like a wholesale drop in team engagement levels because of ineffective allocation of people and other resources across the business) or external (like unforeseen negative economic factors impacting the market for your goods or services).
In other words, “stuff” happens.
This “stuff” should prompt at least a review of the business plan. And where necessary adjustments, additions, and or deletions should be made in a timely and effective manner.
That’s what should happen.
But it often doesn’t. You might be tempted to wait to see if the changed environment is just temporary. Or minor in impact. Or both. You might do that because you know that revisiting the business plan will probably be a lot of hard work. And what if it’s all for nothing?
Ask Kodak, Saab, Borders Books or any number of video/DVD rental chains how the “wait and see” approach worked for them.
The lesson from these guys and so many other once household brands is to be flexible and prepared to change over time. Or disappear if you don't
Indeed, you should ideally build flexibility into your business plan right from the start. And that’s a post for another day.
Want to make sure your business plan stays on track?
BusinessBlades can work with you to tilt the playing field in your favour.
We love working with businesses to help them not only create a robust plan but most importantly keep it relevant and alive.
So give us a call or drop us a note - we'd love to hear from you.
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