It seems that everybody is doing it now: from big ol’ firm, departmental or sector business plans all the way to personal business development ones. More or less formal planning has become popular with professionals.
But, as the saying goes, popularity does not equal success.
Getting your plan right – by avoiding the major pitfalls – can make all the difference between achievement and under-performance. From experience, here are three things that can help.
Beware the missing – or illusion of – choice. Having analysed thoroughly, a good plan needs to properly assess more than one way to achieve its aims. Many do not.
Either such options are absent altogether – having started from a desired end-point (“that is what I/we must do”) and worked backwards – or they are perfunctory inclusions to create the illusion of choice. Almost inevitably, the result compromises the quality of what will happen because these end-point assumptions remain un-examined.
SWOTs that? SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) are a staple of nearly every planning process. They are meant to be the encapsulated result of all your hard-grafted digging and examining.
But there are a number of things that can lessen the value of doing them. One being that the analysis presented is simply a long, not very useful listing of factors – and nothing else. Effective SWOTs must also identify the (maximum six) key issues that your plan has to address. This sets up what follows clearly and purposefully.
Big is not beautiful – aka plans that are measured by the pound or kilo. Much as though you may have enjoyed detailing and crafting your beautiful vision of what should happen, sadly, not everyone who has to read the multi-page tome that results will necessarily share your delight.
Of course, there has to be evidence for the chosen direction, but the essence of a good plan is something readable in no more than two pages…..presented at the beginning. The rest is what appendices are for.
James Newberry runs People Scope, a consultancy, interim, training and coaching firm working with lawyers, accountants and other specialists to help them operate successfully outside of their comfort zones. http://www.peoplescope.com.