Annmaree Bernie – Head Teacher, Business Services, TAFE NSW – Western Sydney Institute (WSI)
There is a Japanese proverb which states that vision without action is a daydream and action without vision is a nightmare.
Daydreams and nightmares can both be useful. One gives us the mind space for creativity, developing ideas and understanding our motivators and the other can serve as a warning or a reminder about roads we don’t want to travel.
Applying this proverb to the business world, we can see that to achieve in business we need a strong vision and planned actions. This can guard against our businesses being both a daydream and a nightmare.
So which comes first: the vision or the planned actions? Although it is possible to hit a target without aiming for it, when you have a target within your sights it is much more likely that you will hit the mark. A vision should therefore be in place to inform the company’s actions.
According to US business leader Ari Weinzweig, having a vision is a uniting and motivating force.
“A great vision is inspiring. It gets you and everyone in the organisation excited to come to work; it’s the cathedral everyone is coming to work every day to construct. This is not mere wishful thinking. A vision must also be strategically sound. You have to have a reasonable shot at getting there.”1
A strategically sound vision will communicate your core identity and values and remain consistent regardless of your strategy for achieving it. Once a vision is in place, the planning behind arriving at that destination can come into play, through the definition of organisational values, priorities and strategies.
I always recommend to small businesses that they start with a marketing plan. First and foremost, you want customers. Within a marketing plan, businesses define their products and services, who their customers are and will be, and how to get their messages to them. The marketing plan is usually updated yearly and is an integral part of any business plan.
When your plan for getting customers rolling in is in place, the next step I recommend is focusing on where your business is going. This is where a business plan comes in.
A good business plan includes big picture statements but also filters down into reportable indicators. A good business plan is also underpinned by research into the market within which it applies. Who are the competitors? What factors such as new legislation or regulation will affect the market in the future? What growth or decline is expected in the industry in the near future? How do other organisations, customers and potential customers view your products and services? Who are the stakeholders and can they be consulted in formulating your business plan?
One of the most important and also most often overlooked groups of stakeholders to consult is staff. The employees of a business speak daily of the values and priorities of their organisation. Their interactions with customers and their involvement in the quality of the product and services are building a reputation. Their input into planning will enhance both its quality and efficacy.
The importance of including employees in the strategic planning process has been highlighted as a method for increasing their participation in organisational goals.2 Employees who have an opportunity to engage with the planning process are more likely to understand and be committed to it.
Industry, government, community and other business stakeholders are also a valuable resource for understanding your business’ place in areas where activities intersect.
Once formulated, key strategies need to be disseminated. All employees should be aware of how the business intends to achieve its goals. These strategies can then be broken down to reportable actions for each business sector.
You will need to know how the business is tracking, so key performance indicators (KPIs) should be determined to measure performance. KPIs can be aligned to specific tasks or target figures or aligned to state and federal government priorities and plans if applicable. Make sure your performance indicators are SMART, that is, specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound, and that they are reported upon.
Business planning can be done to suit the styles and purposes of your business. It can be conducted in formal, informal and dynamic processes. To some, the end goal is not as important as the grounding it provides – that is, building “prepared minds that are capable of making sound strategic decisions.3 To other organisations, the strategic planning documents underpin all practice.
Businesses come in all shapes and sizes and can have very different strong points and needs. If you need it, it is a good idea to get some help for your planning process. At Western Sydney Institute (WSI), when we see management students and businesses, we endeavour to make sure that the training we provide is relevant to their unique situation. Units relating to strategic and business planning are included in various management qualifications but we can also offer them individually in the form of customised workshops and online support for businesses.
1. A. Weinzweig, “Step into the future”, (adapted from Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 1: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business), INC. February 2011, p. 86.
2. M. Ketokivi1 and X Castañer, “Strategic Planning as an Integrative Device”, Helsinki University of Technology 2 HEC School of Management (Paris), 2003, p.27.
3. S. Kaplan and E.D. Beinhocker, “The Real Value of Strategic Planning,” Sloan Management Review, Winter 2003, p.71.