Developing a sound strategy: have we lost the art of planning?

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail is one of the hackneyed sayings in business, yet many businesses have forgotten the art of strategic planning.

It’s not surprising given how easy it is to get bogged down working in, rather than on, your business – but while it might be hard to find the time to do properly, a strategic plan will save you time and potential heartache in the future.

The Future of Business Series, conducted by CoreData on behalf of Bankwest, surveys Australian SMEs on a range of issues. The 2016 Productivity Report  found that 61.8% of mid-sized businesses have a formal strategy, yet a staggering 26.5% haven’t documented the plan. This surprising result is additional evidence that planning, in many cases, has been pushed aside in pursuit of speedier product and service delivery.

The value of planning

There are four strong reasons why planning should still be a part of your strategic approach.

  1. Direction and focus. Leading business strategist Michael Porter sums this up perfectly: “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do”. Going through the planning process provides an opportunity to evaluate the options available, and set a course for the business moving forward. It helps you choose what not to do.
  1. Measure performance. A planning process gives you a chance to review what has, and hasn’t worked for your business. It’s often the opportunity to stop, and pull yourself out of the day-to-day activity and evaluate your business performance.
  1. Adapt to your market. Often if you’re focussed on “getting things done”, you’ll fail to notice changes in the market – Kodak anyone? Failing to appreciate your operating environment can be a critical mistake. The planning process should therefore be flexible, allowing you to identify new trends and competitors, make course-corrections and address new customer needs.
  1. Creates synergy and teamwork. An expertly-communicated plan encourages the achievement of common goals and engages and focuses all parts of your business on the activities that will generate the most growth.

Don’t write a novel

Planning doesn’t need to be difficult. Don’t focus on writing a 50-page tome that is saved to an obscure file sitting somewhere on the cloud. Rather focus on building a strategy that is achievable. If you set realistic goals, you’re be more likely to stay focused on achieving them.