Leadership: 5 Mistakes to Avoid In Developing a Business Plan

Business plans set out the overall direction for the organisation and can be used as a yardstick to track performance.  On the other hand there is a real risk that business plans become nothing more than glossy documents that gather dust.  So what are 5 mistakes you must avoid when it comes to developing a business plan?

Mistake 1: Devoid of any challenge

No successful organisation stands still.  The best organisations, including those regarded as leaders in their field seek to stay ahead of the game.  They do this by ensuring that they continue to set themselves new and bigger challenges around growth, service innovation and product quality to name just a few.  Those who do not set challenging plans muddle along.

Solution: Make sure that business planning encourages those around the organisation to set challenging targets for improvement.

Mistake 2: Nice words but no substance

We have all probably come across business plans which have lots of words that have no substance.  You might recognise some of the following:

• Be known for being highly efficient

• Being the most effective at x

• Encourage employee engagement

• Listen more to our customers and stakeholders

Solution:  Make sure that business plans focus on the results to be achieved.

Mistake 3: Produced in the ivory tower

What do I mean when I say that business plans are produced in the ivory tower?  Basically what I am talking about is business plans produced centrally in the organisation’s HQ by a bunch of people in corporate planning who are totally divorced from service or product delivery.

Solution: Set some overall guidelines at the top and get people closest to the point of delivery to develop the detailed plans for their part of the business.   Keep the role of the HQ team to consolidating and checking for consistency.

Mistake 4: Not used as a business management tool

Ever come across an organisation where a ton of effort goes into the business planning but the document is never looked at from one year to the next?  This is a huge waste of time and resources.

Solution: Develop a system of performance measurement system alongside the business planning so that the business plan becomes a live document.

Mistake 5: Too many goals

In a twelve month period, even the best run organisation can only do so much.  Organisations often fall into the trap of just having too many goals and as a result the whole process becomes unwieldy.

Solution: Focus on identifying a small number of critical goals that the organisation wants or needs to achieve.

Bottom Line – Business planning can be an asset or just a waste of effort.  So what steps do you need to take to make your business planning more valuable?

About the Author Duncan Brodie

Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 8,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.

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