Is It Time to Kill the Business Plan?

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Let’s face it: business plans suck.

They’re a pain to write and people rarely read them cover to cover. Could it be that it’s really time to kill the business plan once and for all?

It’s truly an interesting question. There’s no doubt that writing a detailed business plan can take some time—time that could be spent getting a business up and running.

As Mike Tyson has famously said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” He meant that all plans seem well-thought out until something goes wrong. So, your plan might look great on paper, but it becomes instantly out of date once you actually start talking to customers and learning what’s really going to work and what won’t.

A plan needs to be flexible

As soon as you get out in the real world, your plan is going to have to change and adapt. So, why bother? Wouldn’t writing a business plan just be a waste of time?

But, there’s the unavoidable research about the positive impacts of planning. Studies show that planning and tracking your progress makes you twice as likely to achieve your goals. Other studies show that planning can help businesses grow 30 percent faster than businesses that don’t plan.

So, what’s an aspiring entrepreneur to do? Dive right in and skip the business plan? Or write a plan that’s going to need a complete revision the second that it’s complete?

A better business planning process

It turns out that you can have it both ways. You can kill the business plan, but only if you replace it with a simpler process. The most effective way to plan isn’t with a single long business plan document, but with an ongoing business planning process that evolves over time.

That process is called Lean Planning. Here’s a quick overview:

  • Instead of writing a lengthy business plan, you start out with a one-page Lean Plan that you can create in under 30 minutes.
  • Get out into the real world and test your idea. This is the part where you get “punched in the mouth,” as Mike Tyson says.
  • Review your results. What do you need to change in your plan?
  • Adjust your plan. Because you started with a one-page Lean Plan, this is a simple, painless process.

With the Lean Planning process, you continue to repeat each step as you learn more about your business and your customers. Instead of spending days (or weeks) writing a detailed business plan, you’re using a business planning process while you’re starting your business. You’re accomplishing both the planning task that is proven to lead to more success and simultaneously starting your business so you’re not wasting time.

They key to Lean Planning is to remember that it’s a process, not a document. Business planning isn’t about creating a single document—it’s about setting goals and revising those goals over time.

At the end of the day, the traditional business plan might be dead, but business planning certainly isn’t.

Get your free business plan quote today!

Noah Parsons
Noah Parsons
Noah is currently the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of Outpost and the online business plan app LivePlan, and content curator and creator of the Emergent Newsletter. You can follow Noah on Twitter.
Posted in Business Plan Writing