Monday, July 30, 2007

To Plan or not to Plan, that is the question...

Starting a business quickly, and thankfully, relieves you of many bad habits. One in particular is the tendency to over-plan. I can only guess at the number of hours I spent working for larger corporations talking about WHAT we were going to do, coming up with a PLAN to do it, then never getting anything off the ground.

Oh God how I hated that.

And why does running your own business, thankfully, relieve you of this bad habit? Because when no one is paying you a dime for your work, you very quickly hone your skill for determining what labor is and isn't valuable.

If everyone in all businesses were forced to evaluate their efforts in light of the actual value they were creating, half of all business planning would cease to exist. It's amazing what we waste when the consequences are borne by others.

We're mindful of this right now as we are developing a business plan ourselves. Guy Kawasaki (the most ubiquitous name in 'start-up' planning) posted an interesting article on this not long back. What I like about it was the distinction Tim Berry (his guest and a planning guru) made between 'planning' and a 'plan':

Planning is exactly what you need to deal with the speed of change. You have to remember that your business plan is always wrong—it has to be because it’s predicting the future and we’re human, we don’t do that very well. But it’s still vital because it’s the way you lay down tracks so you can follow up on the constant difference between plan and assumptions.

Without a plan, when assumptions are wrong you don’t even know what they were, how were they wrong, in what direction, and what can you do about it. With a plan, you use plan versus actual all the time to manage the difference between what you thought and what actually happened.

I feel some great metaphor about 'recipes', 'cakes', Napoleon and the invasion of Russia coming into my head, but I am going to stop because sometimes metaphor is neither wanted nor needed - and is just a waste of, valuable, time :)

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