A Fresh Approach to Business Planning for the Next Financial Year

By Peter White

Thinking about how your business planning has gone for this financial year?

Does this sound familiar then?

Here we go again!

Looks like I’m going to have to turn myself inside out again to produce a business plan for next year!

Why does it have to be so complex? No one really reads it after it’s been approved anyway.

I’d better get the one I did last year out of my bottom drawer to see if we achieved any of the “stuff” that we said we were going to do last year.

Oh dear, looks we didn’t do all the “stuff” we said we were going to do, but we did do a lot of other great “stuff’’!

Oh! It looks like we didn’t deliver on our promises. Hope we can do better next year.

Best get started on the plan. Hmm, now where is that business planning template?

Do you get frustrated by the business planning process? Do you feel it is a waste of time? Do you feel like you are doing lots of “stuff, ” but not turning your intention into reality? Do you find it hard to keep track of all the things that you committed to in the plan?

Well, if you’re thinking of using the same old process and expecting better results this time around, you are taking an unnecessary risk.

When I talk to clients, I say business planning doesn’t have to be complicated in the extreme. Part of the challenge is setting off from a sensible platform. For this, we have the Plan-Do-Check-Adjust process, which in my view is “Agile” thinking at its best. Here’s how I approach the planning process.

I say that, before you start, you need to be clear on the context (the background to the challenge) and purpose. You know, what is the problem? Why do you need a business plan? And what is your end goal?

Then I get people to describe their organisation’s or department’s current state in terms of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, systems, symbols, and behaviours. It sounds complicated, but trust me, it’s easy once you understand the process and it’s extremely worthwhile.

Next, I ask people to articulate where they want to be in the future. I call this the “desired future state”. It needs to be succinct and crystal clear: no more than a few dot points.

I follow up by saying, well, if you know your organisation’s current state and you know where you want to be in the future, then why are you not already there? This, believe it or not, is the gap analysis. Simple!

“What do you need to do to close the gap?” is the next question. This delivers the hypothesis for gap closure. It’s your theory of what you think needs to be done in general terms. You won’t really know if it works until you implement and check.

The next step is to identify specific tasks to deliver the hypothesis. These of course need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely).

Then, it’s time to consider any critical issues or “show stoppers” that will stop you achieving your plan. When that is done, we develop KPIs or measures of success to check progress.

You now have a business PLAN.

The tasks are assigned to the appropriate people. This is the DO.

A Visual Management Centre is established so that everyone in the team can CHECK progress to the measures of success, discuss any issues at regular intervals, solve problems together and ADJUST the plan accordingly to achieve the targets.

Sounds too simple? Well, it works and it doesn’t take long to develop. And, best of all, the business plan is on one A3 size page, complemented by an action tracker for review. Of course, it’s tailored to the clients’ specific needs.

My experience is that this simple process ensures that you think about what is actually needed to transform the business as opposed to creating a list of “stuff” to do. There is a bit of training involved, but after that it’s your process for turning intention into reality!

LKS Quaero is a leading management consultancy organisation based in Australia and the United Kingdom. Our select team of experienced professionals have been at the forefront of organisational transformation for several decades across Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. If you’d like to know more, visit us at lksquaero.com or follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.