We sometimes wonder where business strategy fits. Some of the most successful businesses are opportunist, and some of the best crafted strategies lead to disaster. “Fail to plan, or plan to succeed” is just too glib.

As practitioners, with experience in strategy and plan development for large and small organisations, we’ve had a chance to test out plenty of things and form some views.

If you like the views in the bullets below, let’s talk more. We may be able to help you.

  • Flexibility is the key to corporate planning. Yet these days the champions of the Five Year Plan concept are corporations, not comrades. The business context changes by the minute and the place of a plan is to give the business foundations, not shackles.
  • A plan that isn’t owned by staff, isn’t used. So we encourage an approach to plan development that brings in the decision makers, and the people who know the business. And we think about how it will be communicated and shared as we build it.
  • Ever thought about how business plans are bound? Do they look pretty on the shelf? Or are they designed to be used. Maybe one page is better than one hundred? If the plan is worth making, make it part of the way the business does business, not a shelf filler.
  • Then again, that last point is just so wrong! Sometimes the process is more important than the plan. Getting consultation, thinking and analysis going in the organisation often aligns thinking in a far more entrenched way than any document ever can. Either way, only plan if your team will really live the plan. Commitment matters, however you get it.

Planning is more about intent than detail. If you employ smart people, give them boundaries, objectives and resources so they can get the job done. If you only employ machines you don’t need this kind of plan. But the machine analogy is handy – corporate planning can define the knobs and switches, set the ranges for normal operation, and decide when the warning bell rings.

No two plans are alike. Leaders and corporate groups use them in so many ways that we start with checklists, not recipes. We add value through the richness of our skills and experience.