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One of the biggest barriers to better business planning is the horribly mistaken and disappointingly common myth that develop a business plan takes months. That’s just wrong. And harmful, too, because it pushes away people who could use planning, but don’t because it takes too much effort. They think.

In the real world, where good managers include planning process in management, and use it to steer their companies, good business planning takes hours, not months. Here’s why:

  1. Planning is about results, not documents.
  2. The plan is what’s going to happen, and when, by whom, and how much; not a document. Form follows function.
  3. A good annual SWOT meeting (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) takes an hour or so.
  4. Thinking about strategy is always and often. Writing it down in bullet points takes a few minutes a month.
  5. Maintaining milestones, responsibilities, assignments, deadlines, metrics, and who does what is part of every manager’s job, is management, not plan development. It’s not separate work. It takes a serious commitment of not just time but also effort, honesty, communication … but putting it into the plan takes regular minutes, committed often, in hours (at most), not months.
  6. Keeping your financial projections up to date with actual results, and adjusting them regularly, isn’t a matter of months, just hours.

Think of it like physical fitness, which is a good analogy, because good planning process is management fitness: physical fitness takes minutes, regularly, over a long time. Hours, not months.

Tim BerryTim Berry

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