Posts Tagged ‘business plan’

The Difference Between A Strategy And A Plan

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Hang on a second, don’t tune out yet!

I’m not going to write a scholarly piece which will bore you to death.

I want to talk briefly about what I think is one of the worst mistakes – confusing strategy and planning. Roger Martin wrote a post for the HBR last month in which he dealt with this very topic.

I frequently hear business owners talk about the need to do “strategic planning” in order to create a “strategic plan”. Some talk – every year – about holding a “strategic planning meeting”.

But if you really are reinventing your strategy every year, isn’t that a bit of an indictment of both the strategy and the way it was developed?

Coming back to the meeting, the expectation is that the output from it will be a document, a plan. And that will contain a long list of initiatives (often referred to as strategies) with time frames for their completion.

Martin wonders how (and if) this “strategic plan” differs from a budget. I think that’s a great question. But I have a different one.

Isn’t this so called strategic planning meeting really an annual (business) planning meeting? That doesn’t make it any less important – because it still plays a key role in the execution of the company’s strategy.

And if that’s the case, shouldn’t we stop calling the output a “strategic” plan. And start calling it what it really is – the initiatives, which if completed in the next 12 months, will propel the company toward the achievement of its strategy.

Each initiative is accompanied by the Action Plans required to complete it. Each action plan has a champion who is accountable for it’s completion. The action plans have resources allocated to them. And they support, or even drive, the sales and margin forecast and expense budget.

Now let’s go back and talk about the company’s strategy for a moment.

Roger Martin puts it really well –

• “…we need to break free of this obsession with planning. Strategy is not planning…”

and then

• “…strategy is a singular thing; there is one strategy for a given business — not a set of strategies. It is one integrated set of choices….”

Choices about, for example, where and how a company will compete.

The strategy sets the context for the annual planning meeting. It should make it easy for the owner and her/his management team to decide which initiatives are relevant. (Assuming, of course, that they have already developed an effective strategy.)

I think the first step toward developing and executing business strategies that actually yield results is to stop misusing words.

If we call things by their real names we’ll stand a far better chance of understanding what they really are – or vice versa.

You can read Roger Martin blog post in full here.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy Strategy – Don’t Think It, Experience It

Click here and automatically receive our latest blog posts.

Share

Where Do The People Fit?

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

A friend asked me a really great question last week.

I was talking to him about the strategy development and execution processes. And he asked……………

“What about the people, where are the people in all of this?”

So I told him about the 5P’s. Of course – being the wit that he is – he immediately thought I was talking about my weak bladder. But I put him straight.

All of the companies that I’ve worked with, which are consistently Profitable, seem to have a focus on the same 4 things. Several years ago we began referring to them as People, Planning, Process and Performance. In the diagram they overlap because they are all in  action at the same time – and they intersect because they interact with each other and form a continuous loop.

Performance

I always start with Performance which provides both clear direction for the company and the benchmark against which success is measured.

It spans having Vision, Values and Mission statements, through setting and communicating clear goals, to making sure every employee understands his/her role in achieving them. And it includes comparing actual results against the goals regularly, giving feedback and adapting where necessary.

Planning

Then I usually talk about the huge difference between Planning – which is a process – and a Plan or Plans– which are outputs.

There are very few occasions when it’s necessary to write a Business Plan, the most common one being when a company is looking for funding.

But Planning is ingrained in the culture in high performing companies. An effective Strategic Planning process will produce a strategy that will work. The Annual Business Planning process is the key to executing that strategy and turning it into results.

Process

I told my friend that we focus on 3 types of Process.

Functional processes keep each area of the company – e.g. Sales, Marketing, HR and Operations areas –operating efficiently. Control processes monitor the key performance indicators – e.g. sales pipeline, product quality and lead times – and give the owner early warning of potential problems.Financial processes produce accurate and timely reports on the financial health of the company.

People

I always save People for last.

After spending 20 some years in corporations and over 12 years working with business owners there is no doubt in my mind that People is the single most important element in success.

The essence of leadership is finding, motivating and engaging the right People and creating an environment (culture) in which they can contribute fully.

A weak strategy in the hands of the right People will trump the right strategy in the hands of weak People – every time.

And that, I told my friend, is where people fit in………….

If you enjoyed this post you’ll like 6 Ways A Business Owner Can Influence Culture

Click here and automatically receive our latest blog posts

Leading Business Plan Execution

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Brian Brennan is a Chartered Accountant and an experienced leader in the business community. He is a Chair with TEC Canada where he works closely with numerous CEO’s to help them become great leaders in their organizations.

Imagine being at the top of an organization – calling the shots and being where the buck stops. What a thrill!

Leadership is exciting, invigorating and tremendously motivating for those who are in positions of authority and prominence in an organization.

Developing business strategies is a key function that leaders fulfill and executing them well is a tremendous responsibility. The long term success of your company depends on it.

The process of business planning is often conducted annually and is completed in one or two meetings of the senior management team. Too often this is as far as executives go with their well-considered plans. When the meetings are over it is back to the rigors of running the business.

Strategies need to be carefully thought out and passionately executed.

In their book, Execution – The Discipline of Getting Things Done, Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan present the leader’s role with business plan execution as this – “The leader has to be engaged personally and deeply in the business. Execution requires a comprehensive understanding of a business, its people and its environment….only the leader can make execution happen, through his or her deep personal involvement in the substance and even the details of execution.”

The vast majority of business planning fails at the execution phase. Some estimate that the failure rate is as high as 90%. That is astounding considering the quality of the people involved in strategic planning.

I think that Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan have it right. Successful business plan execution requires passionate leadership from the CEO and senior executive team working together. Solid teamwork is a caveat, something that cannot be ignored if business planning is to succeed.

Those who will be responsible for executing strategy will need to be intimately involved in its development. As a CEO or business owner it is your responsibility to direct the activity, stay close enough to understand it thoroughly and ensure that strategic initiatives are followed through.

Keeping your senior team focused and on track to achieve the results that you expect is critically important. Coaching and assisting your team where necessary is all part of the process.

Leadership is all about providing direction and assistance wherever and whenever it is needed – with passion and a deep sense of commitment.

For more information on Brian Brennan visit www.maxpotential.ca and www.tec-canada.com

“You Can Achieve Any Result You Want To……”

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

If you’ve read any of my earlier blog posts you’ll know that I play golf. I realize that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for the game so you will find absolutely no discussion of the technicalities of golf in the following paragraphs.

In fact, if you want, you can substitute any game you personally prefer and still get the benefit of the points I’m going to make.

At the beginning of the summer I decided that my golf really had to improve. As a result, I took some lessons from someone with the experience to help me improve my swing. He turned out to be a terrific teacher who not only helped me improve my practical skills but also gave me confidence in my ability to become a “decent” golfer.

At one point, when we were discussing my goals, he said to me “You can achieve any score you decide to.” These were words of great encouragement for me. When I thought about it later I realized that he was pointing out two things:
• I alone had control over how much of my potential I realized.
• My attitude would play a large part in determining how good I actually became.
Adrian also told me that I had to practice hard, 2 or 3 times every week.

I’m sure you can see where this is going.

After taking stock of my personal strengths and weaknesses as a golfer, he gave me the opportunity to develop a better swing by avoiding the threats of a bad grip, bad posture etc. (OK so I lied a little bit about golf technicalities.) This was the golfing equivalent of a business owner developing a strategy for growing her/his company.

But actually making an improvement in my game would depend on how well I executed that strategy – the consistency of each swing at the ball (a process); how often I practiced (implemented the action plan) and how I adapted to what happened on the course each time I played (regular reviews using feedback from actual results). Also similar to the things a business owner has to do when he/she is growing a business!

I don’t want to draw this metaphor out for too long so let me tell you what happened. For a number of weeks I practiced regularly, improved my swing and learned my lessons when things didn’t work out during a game. My scores steadily got better.

Then, just as happens so often in business, things began to get in the way. I had to go to the UK, then we had house guests arrive. Work was being crammed into early morning and late night sessions.

I stopped practicing regularly (lost focus on my action plan) because I “had” to deal with these other things. My performance on the course (that great golf marketplace) and my scores began to slide again. I did wake up before I’d fallen too far behind (that razor sharp analytical mind at work). And I have improved, but not to the extent that I might have done, could have done, should have done.

I fell into the classic trap that we face as business owners – the day-to-day, tactical stuff took more of my attention than the strategic stuff.

So, the lesson I’ve learned this summer is that I have the potential to achieve a “decent” score in golf. I was certainly able to develop a better strategy (swing) than I’ve ever had before. But my attitude to execution meant I didn’t get to reap the full benefit of my strategy.

But I am now keeping a keen eye on the execution of my business plan (see Physician Heal Thyself)!

Post History