Anyone for lunch in Le Touquet?
I happen to fly an aeroplane, one of the greatest pleasures in my life. Sometimes it’s really good fun to jump in the plane, fly to Le Touquet, have lunch, dabble the feet in the seaside, and then jump in the plane home in time for tea and muffins.
I also spend much of my time helping business owners with strategic planning (another of my greatest pleasures in life). Am I barmey? (don’t answer that question please) – or perhaps there’s more to this than meets the eye at first glance?
Before flying, I have to read weather forecasts; read the issued NOTAMS from the airfields I will fly over or near on my journey, look at the “Purple Flights” (that’s Royalty flying around, wouldn’t want to crash into them!); file my flight plan, get customs and security clearance, check the weight of the aircraft with me, my passengers, any luggage and all the fuel we’ll need to get there and back.
Fully prepared, I can get in the plane and, following a line on the map (and GPS) set off with the compass telling me which way to head.
I’ll have to talk to air traffic control along the way, get clearance to fly in certain airspace, and of course check my instruments to make sure I am in the right place, the fuel consumption is not greater than I had planned, the engine is not getting too hot and the oil pressure is steady – all of which is fairly routine.
And that means that for most of the flight I can enjoy the view, chat to my passengers, and see our wonderful countryside from a perspective one can only enjoy from 5000ft.
So what’s this got to do with strategic planning? The answer is that all the preparation that has to be done before flying is not dissimilar. In truth, it’s not the plan that’s most important – it’s the planning process that makes running a business less stressful, more enjoyable and provides a better degree of certainty of reaching one’s chosen destination.
In the planning process it’s essential to start with where you are (just like the aeroplane). You might find it surprising that many owner/directors don’t know where their company sits alongside others operating in their sector. Creating a position statement is key to determining the journey you’d like to take the business on, and just like my planning the trip to France, it requires knowledge and research.
Likewise looking around and outside of your business is essential to building the plan and there are a number of tools to do this with – SWOT, PESTLE, Ansoff’s Matrix and so on – more information for you to rely on and inform you if the journey will succeed. Then there are the numbers to substantiate the plan which will include other resources you may need to execute it.
As this process unfolds and you have set a destination and got your resources together you can finally construct the dashboard that is suitable for your business so that along the journey you can easily see if something isn’t right.
Just as I do when planning a flight you must assess the risks of even starting off so you have a Risk Register. In the plane I have a checklist, I have percentage variables of say a thunderstorm occurring over the Channel and I have a plan B (we call it a ‘divert’).
Now here’s a funny thing – a friend of mine is a commercial pilot (let’s say that is analogous to being a plc, where my single-engined plane is an SME) and before a flight to Moscow or Geneva or wherever, he does exactly the same preparation as I do.
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