Let’s look at making simple flexible plans that work very well. Why should you plan? Because whilst you may not fail if you don’t, you surely will underachieve and it will take longer, require more effort and probably give you more stress.

Any plan will not accurately predict exactly what will happen: that’s not what it is designed for.  It should give you a model of what you think will happen, and when some of your assumptions prove to be misplaced, you should be able to predict what effect that will have by re running the model. That gives you early warning of problems or helps you capitalise on opportunities.

To achieve that the plan needs flexibility, which is why we prefer to start with either a Lean Canvas or a more detailed strategy plan. The other main advantage of a plan is that paying attention to it makes sure you keep your overall objectives in mind and you have some time when you are not dealing with the day to day stuff that fills your head. Whatever planning you do is well worth it. But we want you to minimise the time in planning so you can maximise the time in implementing the plan and meeting your objectives. We’ve done a short video on how to write a strategy plan.

If you want to start a new project altogether, be it a new business venture or a new product or service for an existing business, you could consider a Lean Canvas. This is a variation of the Business Model Generation idea. The Lean Canvas is a short one page way of quickly capturing the main ideas and ways of thinking. A free web based tool is available here which also has other canvas ideas for you to try.

The key points are that this is very quick to start and you don’t need all the information at once – the canvas shows you what is missing. It makes you think about what you are producing that a customer will really want and how you will tell them, so that you get a better chance of building a sustainable business. It needs regular updating – no plan is cast in tablets of stone, and you must commit to working on your plan often. Things change, and so must your business to accommodate those changes.

Once you are clear about what you are offering, to whom, at what price and know that you are able to measure what is happening in your business you are ready to start. The metrics (measurements) produce a continuous feedback loop, so you can amend and refine your plans, thus making your objectives more achievable. You will inevitably need to add more details later, but this will kick start the planning and give you some sense that it will be viable.

Next time we will look at simple systems to make your life easier and simple metrics so you know how you are doing.