Seth Godin includes venture competitions to his Pundits are (nearly) always wrong post yesterday.

I say take that a step further: business plans are always wrong. I have to say I like how well this ties into his post on Starbucks from a couple days earlier.

That’s because we’re human. Business plans predict the future. We humans suck at predicting the future. Istock_000000549056small_2

Paradox: nonetheless, planning is vital. Planning means starting with the plan and then tracking, reviewing progress, watching plan vs. actual results, correcting the course without losing sight of the long-term destination.

Planning is a process, like walking or steering, that involves constant corrections.

  • The plan sets a marker. Without it we can’t track how we were wrong, in what direction, and when, and with what assumptions.
  • Use this marker to manage the constant conflict between short-term problems and long-term goals. You don’t just implement a plan, no matter what. You work that plan. Use it to maintain your vision of progress towards the horizon, while dealing with the everyday problems, putting out fires.
  • So the plan may be wrong, but the planning process is vital.

The truth is that forecasting is hard. Nobody likes forecasting. But Istock_000000408066smallone thing harder than forecasting is trying to run a business without a forecast.

A business plan is normally full of holes, but you fill them, after the fact, with the management that follows. That’s what turns planning into management.

Good planning is nine parts implementation for every one part strategy.

— Tim 

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.