When you are preparing your Business Plan, you should have articulated a clear and well-defined, measurable vision, and then sought to understand where you stand right now so that you can identify the gaps between where you are and where you want to go.
The process of business planning should take you from having a clear picture of what you want to achieve, through understanding your current capacity and capability to do this, and then finding strategies to actually achieve this.
That journey involves setting some clear goals and then setting strategies that align to reaching those goals.
How do you do this?
Let’s take a step back.
The process of business planning involves working on three stages.
First, you must articulate a clear and well-defined vision to know exactly where you want to end up.
It’s no good having a fuzzy idea that you “want to be successful” or even the slightly better version that you want to “have the best widget-selling store ever”. In order for you to work toward something, you must know what that something is so that you don’t diverge because you’re not clear what you should be doing.
In the first example above, how can you focus all of your, and your employees’ efforts toward being “successful” when it is such a global, emotional state? Successful in what? In life? In love? in business, any business, your own business, someone else’s business?
In the second example, what does it mean to be the best widget-selling store ever? Will you be the best because you sell the most? Because you sell the highest quality widgets? What is “the best”? Assuming there is no annual Academy Award Oscar for being the best widget-seller, who do you know you are the best?
So you see the problem – if you are unclear about what the end-game is, what stops you from diverting half-way: from starting thinking that to be the best you should sell more, then when that’s not working deciding to improve your quality, and then when that doesn’t work to move to some other form of success? If you are clear, you can answer day-to-day questions like “which supplier of widgets is best for me to source supply from?”
You can answer this quickly by asking “which one will get me closer to my end-game or vision faster?”
If your vision is clear you don’t have to struggle with wondering if you should choose speedy supply against the quality of supply or price against continuing innovation of new widgets. Your vision should clearly state the measurements of your “success”.
Once you know exactly where you want to end up you should look at where you are now.
Knowing where you want to end up, you can take a good look at your current capacity and capability to get there, your strengths and weaknesses.
This analysis should show you what you can or cannot do at this stage. For example, if you want to be the best widget-seller because you sell the fastest and most durable widgets, but the models you have are not the most durable, then you need to source or manufacture a sturdier version. Without finding or making a stronger widget, you will not be able to attain your vision of being the best, as defined by selling the fastest and most durable widgets.
An analysis of where you are now in comparison to where you want to be will reveal gaps that you have to bridge – or in management-speak, Key Strategic Issues. These are simply the issues or gaps between where you are now and where you want to be that you have to overcome in order to attain your vision of success.
Once you understand your Key Strategic Issues, you move on to the third business planning phase of defining goals and creating strategies to overcome those issues, achieve the goals, and attain the vision.
How do we do this?
All too often I see in business plans an unrelated grab-bag of goals and strategies.
Firstly the goals are too broad, unfocused, and don’t mean very much to the journey toward your vision of success. Second, they don’t relate to the gaps you have to bridge and might as well be a long wish-list of once things to do in your business.
This worksheet follows our process of creating meaningful goals and strategies.
These goals and strategies become meaningful because they start from the course – your vision.
It is assumed that you have written out and then defined your vision into very clear and measurable terms. It is also assumed that you have analysed your current capabilities and capacity and thus arrived at your gaps or Key Strategic Issues that you need to overcome.
Take each Key Strategic Issue, or “KSI” and define a goal to achieve in order for you to overcome that KSI.
For example, one of the ways you defined your success in your vision may be to provide a cost-effective service but your current situation is that your internal processes to provide that service are expensive.
So, a Key Strategic Issue is how do you reduce the cost of providing that service?
Thinking through the problem you may have decided that you need to automate the internal process so as to cut unnecessary steps and labour. From that, one of the goals to ensure that you can bridge this gap could then be:
“To introduce efficient, automated processes”.
This is a meaningful goal because if you achieve it, you will reduce the cost of providing the service, and since a cost-effective service is part of the measurement of your success, then its achievement provides a direct line to success.
However, you need to be clear about how you measure achieving this goal – what is an efficient, automated process? Is efficiency measured in terms of how many steps it takes to provide the service or in terms of time? Is efficiency measured in cost per hour?
In order to clarify your goal, you can define the objectives that need to be met in order to achieve the goal. Thinking through this you could decide on two objectives for this goal:
- The first is “To implement a computer-controlled system that reduces the time required to correct errors by 25%” (that’s a clear target to measure the efficiency of the automated system);
- The second is “To reduce the overall processing time and cost by 20%” (another clear and measurable target of savings).
Then you can consider the strategies you need to implement in order to achieve the goal and meet the objectives.
There may be a number of actions or strategies you need to implement, for example:
- Identify, purchase and Implement the best computer system we can find (this strategy has a number of clear actions being the step to research or obtain advice on what’s available, talking to vendors and testing, obtaining finance, ordering the system, installing the system, implementing training in the system, and “going live”)
- Implement procedures to measure and test on a continuous basis (this strategy is necessary to ensure the objectives are met and met continuously and may involve steps like developing procedures to test error-rates, developing procedures to measure time and cost saved, implementing the procedures, scheduling 3-monthly tests, and so on).
In doing this your strategies become meaningful – they are clearly aligned to achieving those measurable goals that will lead you to your definition of success.
In order to make these strategies even more meaningful and useful on a day-to-day basis, you should identify the milestones during the implementation of the strategy.
These are just the recognisable key stages on your way to fully completing the strategy.
In the above example, they may be the completed actions identified above, such as obtaining finance, ordering the computer system, installation, and so on.
In order to make these strategies real in time and action, you should identify the people responsible and when the milestone will be completed.
You can download our free Worksheet on Meaningful Goals And Strategies to help you follow the process.
The process is a valuable and probably critical part of your business planning – because unless you write meaningful goals set in order to move you closer to your vision of success, and unless you can translate those goals into clear action-oriented strategies, you may be wasting a lot of your precious time on actions that lead you nowhere fast!
Always make sure that your actions are part of clear strategies, that are designed to get you to clear goals, that are established to get you closer to bridging the gaps between present capability and envisioned success. In this way, your Business Plan is populated with actions that mean success.
Now, here’s’ a couple of things you can do to grow your business in this clear, and well-defined way:
- You can read more about the Business Planning process and what it can do for you
- You can watch a free video training session on how to prepare your Business Plan
- You can put some time aside to prepare your Business Plan
- But if you’re not ready to prepare your Business Plan and would still like to read about business growth techniques, you can register to get our weekly blog posts with valuable tips and tools to grow your business.
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