The business plan as a living breathing document

The business plan as a living breathing document

How do you undertake the planning process so that your business plan lives and breathes as a dynamic document?

Dust gatherer, door stop, tea pot stand…

Business plans the size of regional phone directories. Business plans as compendiums of weasel words. Business plans as mindless tick-the-box compliance exercises. Business plans that leach time, labour and resources to write but which then get consigned to the bottom drawer to gather dust.

I love the planning process. During my travels through the Not for Profit sector I have seen how good plans can anchor, inspire and support meaningful action, and how bad plans can undermine the efforts of even the busiest and best intentioned organisations. In both small organisations and large I have seen the part good plans play ininforming governance, culture and an organisation’s ability to deliver or innovate.

But I have seen plenty of bad plans, those that have been undertaken with inadequate consultation, festooned with weasel wordage, and / or written with an ear to what sounds either impressive or safe rather than doing the following:

Manifest your culture and values:

A good business plan should be a first step to making these important things tangible, both through explicitly articulating them and implicitly describing them through the processes and conditions your plan records. Of course, consultation with your stakeholders, internal and external, is vital to ensure that what you are writing aligns with what is real.

Support planning for change and / or times of uncertainty:

Working in the NFP sector can be a white knuckle ride of adapting to uncertain conditions and lack of resources. As well as anchoring strategy and operations a good plan can, and should, define the times and space (cultural, physical and timewise) for reviewing, analysing, creating and implementing necessary change and managing risk.


Mapping creative and innovative thought against the planning process:

Following on from the above a good plan can also create space for creative thought and then innovation, pin pointing those phases and operations that either need and / or will support this.

These are just three areas of focus that could help transform a business plan from being a moribund obligation into being a dynamic document that supports, rather than burdens, your work.

This article was written as an adjunct to my presentation – How to Make Your Business Plan into a Living Document – at the 2016 Collins & Co. NFP Conference, March 2016.

2 thoughts on “The business plan as a living breathing document

  1. Great post! Really love your point about using it to anchor your culture. When I worked in the not-for-profit sector, we discussed how values fed into the business plan, but I’ve got to be honest that it wasn’t accessible enough to make it a document that I would refer back to. I like the sound of a document that’s so user friendly that staff use it as a reference for their actions, because for us it was always a document that reflected the needs of the board rather than staff.




    1. Thanks for your comment. It can be quite an exercise in translation to make sure that things like business pans really do articulate and manifest cultural values. Takes quite some hard work and real design thinking.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s