Photo (CC) by Robert Scoble, on Flickr
During a conversation the other day with a colleague, he mentioned an acronym, “splots.” When asked what it stood for, he replied, “strategic plan left on the shelf.”
I had not heard that term before but it certainly resonated with me. It is common to hear managers talk about how, after writing a plan, it then gets put on the shelf and not used. It happens in businesses, in nonprofits, and even among individuals as we write our “New Year’s resolutions. Many business owners comment that the writing of a plan was done as a document to give to bankers and investors as the owner looked for a money to open and operate a business. The plan is viewed as a one-time thing done for a specific purpose.
Leaving the plan on the shelf may be an indicator, however, that the business owner is also not continuing the strategic planning process. If that is the case, then the owner may be missing a potential resource. The process of planning is much more than the production of a static document. It is, instead, the opportunity to make changes and adjustments to methods and goals. It is that process that offers the return to the owner and to the business. As President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.”
Planning must be on-going. The business is operating in a rapidly changing world, nothing remains static. As such, the owner must be constantly gathering new information as well as checking back on predicated milestones. Are they being reached? Are deadline dates being met? And most importantly, what adjustments need to be made going forward in the future? Doing this means taking full advantage of the work that was done. While the static words on paper of a plan may go quickly out of date, the dynamic and ongoing nature of part of planning, the activity, offers the rewards.
If an owner feels that he or she has a splot, the remedy begins with pulling the plan off the shelf. Then the owner must: 1) gather new data, both internal and external; 2) compare the new information with what the old ideas; 3) make adjustments; and 4) communicate the changes, the achievements and the shortfalls to those needing this information. By building an awareness and by practicing the planning process, these efforts will become a habit and will blend seamlessly into the organization’s structure and culture.
Building and maintaining a strong business in today’s environment is hard. Strategic planning as an ongoing process is one way to make that happen.