After a number of corporate titans crashed and burned in 2008, business gurus began declaring that “strategic planning is dead” – that the pace of change in today’s economy was too fast for businesses to try to map out a long-term plan. They recommended instead that businesses take a shorter-term approach to planning, in order to remain agile and adaptable to changing market conditions.
Corporate strategist and principal, Gravitas Business Architects, Jay Lebo takes a different approach. “Agility, flexibility and adaptability are not in conflict with long-term strategic thinking,” he says. “In fact, they fit very nicely with strategic planning.” Here’s why strategy and your business plan go hand-in-hand.
The role of a business plan
An effective business plan looks out three to five years. It starts with where your business is today, the direction you want to go, and how you plan to get there. It will require time and resources to develop an effective plan, but the process itself is valuable and a worthwhile investment for your business.
“Firms that take the time to develop business plans anticipate threats better, react more effectively and succeed more often,” says Lebo. “Planning demonstrates that you’ve thought about every aspect of the business.”
The elements of a business plan
A solid business plan should always answer the five “W”s:
To help you answer these questions and develop your plan,, BMO offers worksheets and other resources.
Once you have your business plan in place, you can then work to ensure your plan is responsive to change.
Tactics versus strategy
According to Lebo, “It’s tactics, not strategy, that must be agile and adaptable.” How do tactics differ from strategy? A strategic business plan identifies a future goal and charts the general course to achieve that goal. Tactics are specific steps, processes or procedures to move the business forward and accomplish the strategic plan, says Lebo.
Here are several ways your business can plan for the long term while being poised to take advantage of new opportunities or market shifts.
“Success here is about anticipating and avoiding danger, not adapting to it,” says Lebo. “It’s not about being ‘anchored’ to one path – it’s about finding the right path for your business. This happens only through strategic thought and analysis, not trial and error.