A couple of weeks ago the editor of my entrepreneur.com column poked me sideways a bit with the suggestion that I explain how planning is management. He said (I’m paraphrasing):
What do you really mean when you say planning is management? It’s not immediately obvious. Can you explain how a business plan becomes better business management?
Which led to How Business Planning Leads to Better Management, published yesterday.
The key is going from strategy to numbers:
In order to chart your path, you’ll need to define long-term goals. Think broadly about how you see your business in several years. From there, get specific. You’ll want to establish milestones for when you want to accomplish certain goals, and know who you will want to carry them out. Go beyond sales, costs and expenses, and look at what really drives your business. It might be conversions, page views, clicks, meals, trips, presentations, seminars and other engagements.
And then, more important, you track and manage those numbers. You set a regular review schedule and manage performance based on the numbers in the plan plus the difference between plan and actual results.
Can you see the management brewing? Tracking and analyzing numbers can help you manage the work behind the numbers. You’ll be in a better place to recognize and highlight what’s working and what isn’t working for your business and your team. Managing your business successfully requires more than just praise and pats on the back. Sometimes it means focusing attention on problems, helping people solve them if possible, discussing and embracing mistakes, and, in the worst case, weeding out people who don’t care about bad results. This can all be accomplished more efficiently when you have a plan in place.
So that’s why planning, done right, is management. It’s controlling your destiny and steering your company. And that’s not just a plan, a single, use-once plan; no, it’s planning process. It’s regular use, review, and revision, that makes planning management. Like Eisenhower said: “the plan is useless, but planning is essential.”