Planning, Startups, Stories


Tim Berry on business planning, starting and growing your business, and having a life in the meantime.

The Value of the Plan is the Management it Causes 0

Thanks to Marc Andreessen for picking up this interesting quote on the business plan from Stephen Wolfram, founder of Mathematica. He’s skeptical about the "detailed business plan."

But in the things I’ve done — and all the various CEOs I’ve counseled over the years — I’m not sure if writing a detailed business plan would ever once have been worthwhile. I’m as analytical as anyone. But somehow there are always variables one doesn’t know. That can just turn numbers and things upside down.

Now of course there’s a certain discipline to writing a business plan. And seeing whether someone can actually put together a logical plan can be a good way to assess them. It’s like whether one has a good website. That looks nice, and is well organized. Or has some educational degree that proves one can finish something.

That’s from a 2005 talk.

Frankly, this is important: the value of "writing a detailed business plan" is determined not by the plan but rather by the management that it causes. It’s not whether you were right, but whether the existence of a plan made it easier to manage progress towards long-term goals, and commitments to details, and accountability.

This is a reminder that the value of planning isn’t the plan, but the process that I call plan-as-you-go planning, meaning planning as management, working a plan with a process of review and correction and tracking. Plan-as-you go also means doing it in interrelated blocks, starting anywhere, jumping around, and keeping the plan as a living, constantly evolving document.

The future of business planning isn’t the document that Wolfram remembers with frighteningly little fondness. It’s using that planning to manage, keeping your eyes on the horizon and the details at the same time.