Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Planning For Success In A Small Business

Planning is the ingredient that makes success possible. Not planning is analogous to attempting to catch a fish by throwing a spear into a river. In this case, success will depend on hope, and certainly, the vast majority of humankind will be dead if for our dinners we depended on catching fishes with spears.
  • On the other hand, the desire to be successful while we are still alive makes planning all the more important. It gives us a road map to where we want to go, and makes clear what is possible and what is not, helping us optimize our resources toward goals that make success possible.
  • Planning involves setting up clear direction for a system, then guiding the system to follow the direction to achieve its purpose. By merely going through the motion of planning does not lead to success, until strategies are developed to achieve goals that show progress toward attaining the purpose of the system.
  • The system to be guided by planning could be a business, a department, a production process, a family, or the condition of life. Whatever it is, the system should have four principal elements. It should have inputs, processes, outputs and outcomes.
  • The inputs include raw materials, technologies, money and labor. These inputs go through specific processes that coordinate them to achieve the goals set for the system. The outputs are the physical results produced by the processes, such as goods and services. Improvement in the quality of life of customers and employees brought by the use of the goods and services represents the outcomes or values of the system.
  • Once the system is selected, planning begins with working back through the system to guide it. Starting with the outputs and outcomes, the planners will set up the processes by which identifiable results and values can be attained. They will also arrange for inputs or resources to carry out the processes. The inputs are usually presented in the form of a budget.
  • Goals will be set for each element in the system. These goals will be specific so that no question arises as to which element each is assigned. The goals will be measurable so that progress toward planned results within the system can be evaluated. They will be attainable as well as realistic, and the time frame within which goals are to be accomplished will be clearly stated.
  • Planners will develop strategies to optimize the processes by which to achieve the goals within the system, and objectives selected to be time sensitive and show progress toward the goals to which they relate. Responsibility for achieving these objectives will be given to persons with the experience and skills to carry them out.
  • What strategies are chosen will depend on the extent to which the business can afford them, how practical they are in achieving the goals of the system, and how efficient resources within the business are used, building on its strengths and taking advantage of its opportunities.
  • Planners should not lose sight of the purpose of the planning process. This is important because all plans run into some difficulties during implementation. Parts of the plan may need rethinking to bring in new information in response to changes on the ground; therefore, the plan should be flexible and adaptable to unforeseen changes.
  • Additionally, there may be internal or external resistance to the plan that renders its implementation too costly, or lead to irreparable damage to the reputation of the business. In both cases, a rethinking of the purpose and values of the plan will bring to light information that was overlooked or given less weight in the planning process.
  • The final plan will be written into a document, and distributed to all employees responsible for its implementation. Where the plan is successful, management should acknowledge and celebrate it, so that employees will see the fruit of their efforts, and be appropriately rewarded. 
Knowing the purpose of your business plan will ask, what are the processes by which to achieve it? How will you get the money to finance the processes? What are your strategies to achieve the goals set for the system? Are your objectives timely and show progress toward your goals. Are the elements in the system properly coordinated to achieve the purpose and values of your business? If your answers are ‘yes’ you are on the road to success.

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