The Art Of Planning: Be Flexible

As the new year kicks off, entrepreneurs around the world are furiously planning their year ahead, setting up charts, taking voice notes and scribbling ideas on the backs of napkins. Once the plan has been drawn up, they will sit back to admire their handiwork, thinking, “This is how we’ll succeed this year!” Unfortunately for most of these entrepreneurs, this time spent on planning will be essentially fruitless – their plans will be implemented haphazardly and won’t lead to the intended results. Why is this so?

Planning is undeniably crucial for business success: as the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. However, there is an often-overlooked intermediate step between the planning process and implementing the plan; communication. In order for your plans for the year to be implemented successfully according to your vision of growth, you will need to communicate the plan and its implications to the following five stakeholder categories.

Partners and investors
Communication about your plan to your partners and investors should focus on the high-level strategic issues lying ahead and address any big decisions that will need to be made. Partners and investors will be focused on the financial implications of the strategy and will also have a longer-term view of how the strategy will impact on your business’s growth.

Your management team will definitely be able to provide you with strong insights into operational aspects of your business that will impact on the feasibility of your plan or that you may have overlooked. It is therefore advisable to present your plan to your managers in a collaborative way, seeking their input where required to ensure that the plan’s implementation has the buy-in and deep understanding of management.

Getting your staff to line up behind your strategy is the key to achieving the objectives of your plan. When you communicate the plan to your staff, make sure that your message is crystal clear and that staff are able to understand the reasoning behind any changes that they may need to make in the way that they go about their work. If your staff don’t understand exactly why they need to change the way they do things, you will come up against strong resistance to the plan. Similarly, if you send mixed messages your staff will pick up on this and begin to doubt the validity of the plan as a whole. To ensure its successful implementation, your plan will need to demonstrate reasoned, logical steps to be taken by staff members, as well as offering meaningful insight into why these new or changed activities will benefit the company – and, by extension, your staff – in the long run.

While your clients will not need to know the ins and outs of the implementation of your plan, it is important to evaluate how your plan will impact on the way you interact with clients. Once this impact is clear, communicate with your clients to inform them how you are planning to improve your service to them and the benefits that your plan will bring to them. This will prime them for any changes that may affect the way they do business with you (such as a new ordering or billing system), and will generate goodwill towards the changes, as they will feel that you are taking their needs into consideration as you go about growing your company.

At no point should you sit back and let yourself believe that your strategy will be implemented as planned with no stumbling blocks. Continually seek feedback on the plan and monitor the progress of its implementation. Based on the feedback and new information you receive from both internal and external sources, you will be able to tweak the plan to ensure that you can reach the goals it was developed to help you achieve.
Having too rigid a plan is almost as dangerous as having no plan at all. Two-way communication with the various stakeholders described above is a powerful tool that will allow you to adapt and adjust your plan to the real-world factors that inevitably impinge on your business strategy. Set your goals, lay out your plan and let open communication bring you the advantages that come with strategic flexibility.

Image Source: ShutterStock