No plan survives contact with the enemy

By Jason Sullock, New Customer Marketing Manager, Sage

'No plan survives contact with the enemy' is a common military saying, but there is a far harsher lesson - that of not clarifying your objectives before you start, or even worse, not planning at all.

The very reason detailed plans fail is because, yes, you guessed it... they are too detailed.

A detailed plan becomes a timetable with a pre-determined destination. That destination 'must' be reached, no matter what happens in the outside world. 'Keep to the plan'. Don't deviate no matter what. Stay on target, stay on target.

And it's that very rigidity that derails detailed plans. They take no notice of external events. No notice that the world has changed around them, whilst the plan is quietly trundling on even though it's outdated. The plan is everything!

And then there's the opposite... no plan at all.

These 'non-plans' lurch from crisis to crisis, always breathing a sigh of relief that the last disaster has been averted. Not realising that every missed bill, every delayed tax return, and every instance of 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' is storing up, just waiting for the Perfect Storm to engulf another small business.

But there is a way to get the best from a plan, without it becoming either too overwhelming or being non-existent... and again it comes from a military term.


'Intent' is the term the military use to describe what they want to achieve 'overall'. 'How' they achieve it can be totally flexible. Commanders sometimes describe their leadership as being 'In command, but out of control' in that they devolve 'how the Intent is achieved' to their subordinates.

As long as the Intent is achieved, you're plan has succeeded.

So, when you come to planning for your business, deliberately build in an element of flexibility. Deliberately give you or your employees the empowerment to achieve your overall Intent.

That way, you'll never be blinkered to external events, and you'll always be ready for the storms.

Effective planning, and the actual use and updating of the plan once it's created, is essential to the growth of any small business. Without it, managers are simply buffeted along by the currents and storms of the economy and the marketplace.

White paper top tips on business planning

Business Planning gives you the essentials you need to look at on a regular basis.

What it covers:

1. Key advice.

2. The three R's of decision making.

3. The most fundamental part of your business.

4. Key Performance Indicators.

5. Strengths and weaknesses.

6. How to cope with a worst case scenario.

Planning for Business software from Sage can help with guiding you through the key things you need to consider when starting a new business or if you're in the early stages of a new business - such as forecasting your cash flow or planning your marketing approach.

Watch our Sage Planning For Business video for more information.

Twitter: @sageuk
Website: www.sagehello.co.uk

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