Which Planning Method Is Right For Your Business?

Growing up, your life has been comprised of a series of decisions that relied on goal setting and planning. Throughout the life of your business, you will be faced with many critical decisions needed to run and maintain a successful business - in order to achieve your goals. You must be aware of how to approach these decisions and which outcomes will move it along to the next level or hold it back to stagnate or even fail.

Every business is unique. But what makes businesses similar is that they ALL must rely on goal setting, planning, and analysis to achieve their own milestones. In business, we all face the same things. Some business owners are able to tackle the complexities of goal setting and planning, and adjust along the way as things change; others have little experience or expertise in how to reach them.

The purpose of this paper is to present a new approach to organizational planning – a multi-method approach based on 14 critical factors of the business. We at GOAL ACHIEVE! have identified a 4-way framework to choose the best planning method for any type of business – called 4-Method PlanningTM. All methods are designed to (1) jump-start the life of a new business, (2) get an established business back on track, or (3) move a successful business to the next level.

Why Planning Is Important

Entrepreneurs start their business with a dream – a vision – of what their creation can be. An owner’s intuition and growing experience can keep the venture afloat during the first year or two. But chaos ensues – you add new employees on a whim, develop new products that have no market value, struggle to make payroll or customer-facing employees make promises you can’t keep. These are just a few of the reasons planning is important.

There is a myth that every business should do long-range planning – regardless of their size. Small business owners have been told that this kind of planning is right for them. But this type of planning isn’t right for every small business. In fact, it can be detrimental.

So, what other ways can a business owner plan for their organization? Let’s look at the alternatives.

Strategic Planning

The most popular form of long-range planning is strategic planning. Developed in the 1960s, it was used almost exclusively for large companies. Markets were getting more competitive and turbulent, with improvements in technology and global business. Strategic planning became a method for planning for the future, given predictable conditions in the environment.

Strategic planning is a long-range (3-5+ years) method that ties a company’s future vision to its shorter-range goals, activities, resources, and decisions. The goal of strategic planning is to anticipate the future, create goals to get there and steer the business in that direction. This method analyzes the external environment to anticipate opportunities and threats. Strengths and weakness of the business are analyzed to determine capabilities to meet selected goals. Goals are set, strategies (the direction to take to achieve the goals) are developed, action plans are executed.

Why Strategic Planning Isn’t for Every Business

While strategic planning has become the preferred business planning method, small businesses often don’t do well with strategic planning because:

  • Industry and market changes don’t affect small businesses as they might larger businesses
  • The method is too cumbersome and takes too long (perhaps months)
  • Many start-ups and young businesses don’t even set goals, let alone plan
  • The focus of a young business is often on sales and successful intuitive growth
  • They may be too small to benefit from a complex strategic planning method
  • They’re using the wrong planning method.

Different Planning Methods for Different Businesses

4-Method PlanningTM uses different planning methods that can be appropriate for a small business:

  • The Business Plan
  • Goal setting
  • Opportunity PlanningTM
  • Strategic planning (under certain circumstances)

The Business Plan

A business plan is a document that shows how a business (usually a start-up or new business) expects to achieve its purpose, including methods, and timeframes. It is often used when a start-up seeks capital from a bank or venture capitalist. It describes the nature of the business, background information on the business, financial projections, and strategies for the business. It can serve as a roadmap for young companies and provides a foundation for making decisions and setting policies. Established businesses transforming into a new vision or mission benefit from developing a business plan, as well.

Goal Setting

Goal Setting is a process of identifying something you want to accomplish in the future and involves the development of an action plan to direct you toward a goal. Goal Setting can serve as a self-regulatory control function where each team member self-directs their work performance and priorities because they know what the goal is. The Goal Setting process extends beyond simply setting a goal for the business. It is typically cascaded down the organization to all workers. Worker performance improves because each team member knows their defined role, tasks, and expectations. Goals are typically set on an annual basis. There may be little or no analysis of the environment or direct tie to the company mission or vision.

Opportunity PlanningTM

Opportunity PlanningTM is a new and unique type of planning developed by GOAL ACHIEVE!. When other planning is too cumbersome or slow, Opportunity PlanningTM gives you a tool to provide a speedy alternative to take advantage of new opportunities in the market or internal innovations. This type of planning takes advantage of elements from Goal Setting and Strategic Planning (see above), and Agile Planning. The unique feature of Opportunity PlanningTM is the Business Strategy BlueprintTM (a GOAL ACHIEVE! tool), which helps you to integrate the selected opportunity into your current business model. Opportunity PlanningTM can help you discover new revenue streams, improve productivity, set priorities, and manage costs.

Strategic Planning

As described above.

Which Planning Method Is Right for Your Business?

There are a number of criteria that can be used in determining the right type of planning for a small business. Some of them are:

  • Age of the business (start-up or 10+ years old?)
  • Previous experience with planning
  • The speed of change in the external environment
  • Time available for planning
  • # Employees
  • Task or Mission-driven?
  • Opportunistic company?
  • Risk tolerance
  • Capital reserves or funding availability
  • Readiness to grow
  • Organizational structure
  • Length of time required to complete the planning
  • The right employee capabilities
  • Balancing planning and execution with operations

Deciding on a planning method requires analysis, but judgment plays a role, as well. Our Planning AssessmentTM tool helps you to make the choice of method for your business.

If you would like more information about 4-Method PlanningTM for your business, contact Jeff Fierstein, Principal, at GOAL ACHIEVE! LLCTM at 1-602-412-7339 (US Arizona time) or jeff@goalachieve.biz. Check our website at www.goalachieve.biz for more information on our services and tools.

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