Do You Really Need a Plan for 2015?
Blog posts are emerging across the internet with all kinds of tools, tips and tricks plan your best year in business for 2015.
There are also just as many posts proclaiming “I don’t have a plan, you don’t need one. Waste of time.”
You might be surprised to hear that as a devotee of planning, I agree with the latter camp:
Most plans are a waste of time
They’re pointless because they try to predict the future in too much detail, too far ahead.
We’re bad at prediction at the best of times.
When trying to predict the future of a business that we’re just starting, where we’re doing things we’ve never done before, the only thing that’s certain is that our predictions will be wrong.
Than why do I firmly believe you DO need a plan?
Because you need to know where you’re going, that’s why.
Let me introduce the Big Vision Plan – part of my 5 step framework.
Here’s how it goes (prepare to be shocked by the simplicity):
1 – Create a vision of what you want to achieve
2 – Plan the right steps to achieve your vision
3 – Continually review the plan
Part 1: Create your vision
Your vision isn’t just a goal, but a clear picture of what things will look like when you’re plan is done.
If you’re planning for the year ahead, what will you have achieved? What will you have launched? How much money will you have made? Who will you be working with? Etc etc – what defines success for you?
You can do this with a blank sheet of paper an pen. Write down everything you think of. Go into as much detail as you like, then focus on any themes which keep coming up, and really be clear with yourself about what success looks like for those recurring areas.
This is not some woo-woo hippy dippy visioning exercise, where you’ll achieve everything because you’ve pictured it in your mind’s eye. That would be bollocks, and there’s a lot more work to do than just thinking.
But if you don’t know what you want to achieve, you wont achieve it. Or you might, but you won’t even know that you did.
You must have an idea where you’re headed. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but you need to be clear on where think you want to go right now. Take a snapshot in time and envision it. It can and will change over time, (which is fine) but that’s not an excuse to have no target.
If you can see where you’re headed everything gets easier. If you share this vision, it’s easier for others to hop onboard and help you achieve it.
Vision creates a purpose for your plan.
Part 2: Plan The Steps To Achieve Your Vision
I know this sounds oversimplified at best, patronising at worst, but please, bear with me.
You may feel like you’ve got no idea what the steps are that you need to take. That’s fine, and normal.
It just means you need a plan even more. If you have no clue what to do, what will you actually do when you start work? Better to realise you don’t know now, find out and then build a plan, than to wander aimlessly for the year, trying things at random.
So how do you build this set of steps?
Break it into chunks
Even if you don’t know exactly how you’re going to make the whole thing work, you’ll know what some of the big steps are.
When you’ve done a “chunk” what will you have achieved? How many of these interim victories can you see on the road to reaching your vision?
Plan out the steps to the first milestone
Go into as much detail as you can for this milestone only.
Do the steps. Reach the milestone. Plan the next one.
By doing it this way, you can get specific with what you need to do right now, but not wast any time with predicting things months away.
Your plan makes the vision achievable
Part 3: Review the plan
Your plan will change. At least a little, and maybe a lot over the course of the year. The trick is to make these changes in a controlled way.
To do that, set out in advance a number of times when you’ll review your plan. For a year long plan I suggest once per month and every time you meet a milestone. These might coincide, so you’ll review the plan 12-20 times in the year.
Doing it this frequently means the review needs to be quick. Each time, ask just 3 questions:
1- How did I do against the plan?
2 – Is the vision still where I want to go?
3 – Did the steps I took work out how I expected?
Once you’ve answered the 3 questions, update your plan to be the best version you can create with the information you now have.
Between reviews, stick with the plan as closely as you can.
Give it chance to work.
If you feel you want to make a change to the plan, it could be that you’ve found a better way. But it could just be you’re kidding yourself and you just didn’t want to do the hard work.
Imagine you’re trying to lose weight. You could definitely do that by following a restricted calorie plan, or following something like the paleo eating plan. Which is the better method doesn’t matter. Either would work if you stuck to them.
What is guaranteed not to work though, is restricting calories one day, then eating “paleo” the next, then doing something else the next day.
You’ve got to stick with one plan long enough for it to work.
That’s why we only make changes at review time. You won’t give up on something because you had a bad day, or the work was harder than you thought. But equally, regular reviews mean your chances of flogging a dead horse of a plan are reduced.
Finally, reviewing at milestone points keeps you motivated. You can look back on how you got to that milestone, pat yourself on the back, then see if you learned anything to make the road ahead easier.
Review the plan to keep it relevant
Want the TL;DR version?
- Yes to a plan, no to one that’s too detailed or rigid
- Create a vision to aim for
- Break down what you need to do to achieve the vision
- Stick with the plan short term, review and change it if it’s not working
- Celebrate victories along the way