Which is better: aiming at something from a great distance and committing to that without flexibility; or setting a general direction and moving towards it in smaller flexible increments?
The second is better. Of course.
The first is like the myth of the business plan, the way it’s frequently misunderstood. The second is business planning, the way it is supposed to work.
Real business planning doesn’t lock you in over the long term. Quite the contrary, it sets directions and priorities, and concrete steps, and gives you something you can track and manage. It gives you more flexibility, not less. Keep the long term in mind while you deal with the short term. Watch how things unfold, what turns out to be as you expected, and what doesn’t. Manage your business, with planning.
And not, emphatically not, set a plan once a year and then follow it blindly until you do a new plan a year later.
So don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Don’t think that because some people misuse a business plan, turning it into a straight jacket, that you don’t want to plan your business. Just do it right.
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Finding the compromise between making a rigid plan and following it too closely and making any old plan and then filing it away and forgetting about it is a delicate art. Mostly I see the latter rather than the former.
When I headed my condo board (for an insanely long 6 years), I used to have a similar conversation about the annual budget. That’s it’s a planning document, not a set-in-stone, can’t-change-it-no-matter-what-happens set of commandments.
Great post. If more people understand that business planning is a tool and not a mandate, then they will become more comfortable at setting goals–and putting down aspirational benchmarks.