I liked this question on Quora:

My new year’s resolution for 2014 is to create a plan and stick to it. I haven’t been particularly good at it in 2013 so my first step is to ask this question …  I know from past experience that I can successfully develop games by following a plan but lately I’ve been loosing focus a lot. I’m certain I can get back on track, with some help.

How do I create a plan and stick to it?

That’s a core question. Is it a matter of the plan itself? The tools? The discipline of sticking to it? And should you even want to stick to it? I see all of those questions bundled into this one.

Here’s my answer:

There’s no value in sticking with a plan just for sticking with a plan.

There is, on the contrary, huge value in a business planning process that keeps a plan alive, reviewing and refreshing regularly, and updating your plan as your market, environment, team, resources, and assumptions change. You and your business should be learning constantly, and what you learn changes your plan for the future.

Here are the two keys to creating an ongoing process that works:

1. Make your plan measurable, concrete, specific

Make sure your plan includes concrete specific measurable goals you can track with plan vs. actual reviews. The big conceptual ideas are great but put them down into the level of detail of numbers. Not just money in sales and expenses and such — although that’s really important — but also trackable goals like sales, sales calls, leads, updates, minutes per call, revisions, launches, tweets, posts, readers, subscribers, members, reach, calls per unit, etc.

2. A planning process with regular plan vs. actual reviews and revisions

Set a regular process for ongoing review and revisions. I worked for years with a plan-vs.-actual meeting every month. the third Thursday of the month (so we could have the books closed on the previous month). At every meeting you review plan vs. actual results, and assumptions too. When assumptions change, your plan should change. When results are bad, figure out why and change your plan to correct.

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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.