By Phil Cheesman
What's the difference?
In my last article, I emphasised the importance of long-term or strategic planning to make sure that everything we do drives our business towards our vision. The trouble is strategic plans can be very daunting. The strategic goals act as way points toward our vision, showing us the general direction in which we should be moving, but they don't tell us what we should be doing on a day-to-day basis. That's where short-term planning comes in.
The crocodiles nearest your canoe
Short-term plans take our strategic goals and break each one down to a series of simple actions which can be scheduled in our diary. Our strategic plan will have prioritised our goals for us, we just have to pick the nearest 2 or 3 in order and write down the simple actions that need to be completed to reach each goal. The acid test is whether each action fits in our diary and you have the resources to complete it. If it doesn't, we are setting unrealistic deadlines and we will inevitably fail to complete them, leading to frustration and a stagnating business.
The benefits of short-term planning
If we stick to the art of the possible on the other hand, and are disciplined about scheduling, resourcing and completing our short-term actions, we’ll get a real sense of progress as each action is completed and our strategic goals will no longer appear as daunting or as "pie in the sky". Even better, we'll be able to look back at a series of completed strategic goals and forwards to a vision which is getting ever closer.
Finally, if everything in our plan is scheduled in our diary we can apply the "if it's not in the diary, it doesn't get done" approach to avoid being side-tracked into activities which are not going to take us forward towards our vision. This helps us stay focused, work smarter and avoid the many "displacement" activities which can make us very busy but not very productive.
Writing short-term plans without a strategy will still help us get things done, but they won't necessarily be the right things. Without having a strategy first, we’ll be risking wasted time, energy and money, none of which we can afford!