Some organisations have a rigorous annual business planning cycle, others say they’re working to a plan but haven’t written it down yet. Whatever stage your organisation is at, here are five steps to successful business planning:

Start from the top

The board should take ultimate responsibility for business strategy by setting high-level parameters for each part of the organisation. Although you’ll want to allow some entrepreneurial ideas to come back up to you through the process, it’s also important to set expectations on where, for example, you see an opportunity for growth or a need for efficiency. If you don’t do this, there’s a danger that you’ll end up with lots of disparate plans and requests for investment that aren’t aligned with your overall business strategy. It’s a good idea to provide some kind of standard plan template, although you may want to allow a degree of flexibility within it.

Engage each team in the process

The leader of each team could draft the plan alone but if you want to make sure it gets delivered then it’s a good idea to engage other team members at the beginning of the process. Hold a workshop to brainstorm key themes so that everyone is bought into the process and understands the role that they can play in delivering the final plan.

Work out the next actions

The reason that many strategies don’t get delivered is because not enough time has been spent working out the specific actions that will get them from A to B. It’s easy to make a grand statement like ‘our aim is to grow revenue from the retail sector by 15%’ but that doesn’t say ‘how’ you’re going to do it. So take the time to work out things like which clients you’re going to target and what the next action on each target will be.

Look for the common themes

Once the plans for each area of your business have been drafted, get them presented back to a review panel. This will likely include board members and key support heads. Not only does this show that you’re taking the process seriously by reviewing and formally agreeing the plans, it also allows you to pick out common themes from across the business. There may be resources that can be shared, client initiatives that can be combined, or the cost of new investments spread.

Review, measure, repeat

Now that each plan has been agreed, you can embed key actions and deliverables into appraisal objectives for team members. Outside of the appraisal process it’s also good to review progress against the action plan with the team leader on a quarterly basis. This will allow you both to measure progress and review and adjust the plan where appropriate.

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