I regard myself as a bit of an expert on business planning. I even wrote a few books about it. Imaginative titles such as “Planning for success”, “TENbizplan”, “Business planning for the social economy” and the best-seller “Start your own business, a workbook”.
Those titles no longer relevant
With regret, I have concluded that my books are no longer as relevant. They focus on a lot of preparation, lots of research and a very formulaic approach towards a business plan document. Too slow, too cumbersome, too detailed.
The tension is between the need for preparation, preparation, preparation, the way you communicate your venture and coping with the chaos, speed of change that makes long term planning impossible.
Planning cycles too long
If startups can become mainstream in a month, there is no point in having two-year planning cycles. 42% of the most successful entrepreneurial businesses in the USA have no plan at all.
“Rework” which tells about the journey two entrepreneurs made setting up a company that builds project management software with huge success (3 million people around the world use their product and they are generating multi-million dollars of profit). I think we can agree that we can regard them as experts.
- Planning is guessing
- Plans lets past drive the future
- Plans are inconsistent with improvisation
- Decide on what you are going to do this week, not this year
- Ignore the details, focus on the big picture
- Your estimates suck; break things into smaller things (weeks vs. years)
The whole message of the book is that it is not about long-term planning but about short-term movement.
3 year business plans are pointless
I can quote a long list of books that talk about how the business world is getting more and more complex, chaotic and moving at ever increasing space. (“Funky business”, “Future files”, “Break from the pack”, to name a few). Combine that with information overload (a key concern for CEOs according to IBM) and you can see why a 3-year business plan document is completely pointless.