Female entrepreneur working on her business plan in her office. Attempting to decide if a single use or ongoing standing plan makes more sense. | Bplans Blog

A plan is a detailed course of action proposing a decision, intention, or set of steps required to achieve a particular goal. For a business owner, this strategic direction is captured by your business plan

Writing a business plan is vital for your business to succeed. However, there are times when you will need to implement individual plans to better manage strategic initiatives. These can be broken down into two types of plans: single-use and standing plans.

So, what’s the difference? How do you determine which option is best in a given situation? Read on to explore the key differences between a standing plan and a single-use plan.

What is a single-use plan?

A single-use plan, also known as a specific plan, is a strategy used to achieve a unique one-time business goal. It’s a plan created to address a specific situation or problem that becomes obsolete the moment the project or task is complete. It’s not designed to be used over a long period of time, and its overall use depends on the time it’ll take to implement programs or projects.

Single-use plan example

Assume that your business is exploring the launch of a new product or service. The enterprise wants to have a well-planned event that will announce to consumers that the product is on the market. The business’s marketing team creates a single-use plan detailing how it plans to take care of that issue to ensure that event is successful.

When the launch date comes, all the business has to do is follow the single-use plan to the letter. The product will have been launched into the market by the end of the day. 

During that process, the single-use plan is effective. When that’s over, the specific operations plan ceases to be helpful. It has achieved its purpose and can be set aside.

What is a standing plan?

A standing plan is a more comprehensive plan that’s intended to be used repeatedly. In general, it’s created to meet the needs of recurring decisions and actions. It serves as a business’s go-to resource for establishing a set of rules, policies, and procedures for recurring common situations. This type of planning includes your broad business goals, strategies, and milestones that you need to hit to grow.

Standing plan example

Let’s say a company wants to improve the customer experience for its product. It needs to come up with the right strategy to connect with customers on an ongoing basis and better understand their pain points.

To do so, they establish a procedure to ask the customers to provide contact details when buying their products/services. Later, they can follow up by requesting their customer to rate their experience and provide a short explanation if possible. 

That way, they’ll know how a customer felt about interacting with them and if there’s an area that they’d like to be improved. The same procedure can then be followed whenever a customer buys a product/service. Since this is an ongoing process it can be wrapped into their standing plan to better track long-term results.    

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Standing plan vs single-use plan — differences explained

In every business venture, formulating short-term and long-term plans is a necessity. But how do you know which one to choose? To help simplify that decision, here are the primary differences between a standing plan and a single-use plan.  

1. Single-use plans are meant for projects

A single-use plan’s purpose is to accomplish a specific goal, initiative, task, or project. Its contents are both project-oriented and result-oriented and can’t be used to run the whole business. The specific plan can’t provide guidance on any other aspect of the business other than what it is intended for.

However, a standing plan is intended to fulfill a business mission or strategy and usually doesn’t have a determined end date. It addresses a business’s issues that are recurring in nature. Its purpose is to offer guidance that improves coordination, promotes effective managerial decisions, and ensures the smooth operation of a business.

2. Standing plans help with ongoing optimization

The mid-level management of a company usually creates both standing and single-use plans. However, standing plans are typically meant to achieve the organization’s primary goals. They lay the standard procedures to be followed to improve interconnected business areas continuously.

On the other hand, a single-use plan doesn’t warrant continuous improvement. This is because a specific plan is meant to optimize a project or specific business area. After the project is over, it’s no longer used. Sure, you can take learnings from the execution and apply them to another plan, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to immediate action.

3. Single-use plans are limited in scope

Single-use plans normally have a limited area of focus. To execute them, you’ll have to stick to the initiative and time frame detailed within the plan. It may take a few days, weeks, or months, but the intention is to create a plan to complete the project. In addition, single-use plans don’t usually apply to other areas of the business.   

On the contrary, standing plans can be used across different business areas. They are designed to be useful when resolving various situations. For example, how a company handles reporting to the HR department can be the same for every department.

4. Standing plans are designed to be modified

Standing plans are never in a finalized status. They keep on evolving since they can be adjusted to fit the current state of a business. One of the reasons for the flexibility is that the business world is ever-changing. 

As a result, a business has to have room for adapting whenever necessary. Therefore, if something isn’t working, the business can decide how to fix or improve the situation.   

As for single-use plans, they’re created to complete a specific project. They can be altered throughout the course of that project, but the expected outcome remains the same. A budget is an example of a single-use plan that can be changed to fit current needs. If things change, such as prices, it has to be adjusted to the current amount in order to reflect the business’s expenditure.  

5. Single-use plans should become obsolete

Not every project has a one-size-fits-all approach. When a business has a new situation that needs to be addressed, a single-use plan must be designed to handle it. Once the project is over and the end result is realized, that’s it. It can’t be used anymore since any other future project will need a fresh single-use plan.  

On the other hand, standing plans are meant for common issues that occur again and again. Therefore, when that situation is taken care of, the plan remains valid and will be stored as a contingency plan until it occurs again. If it makes sense, standing plans can also be used continuously for day-to-day business operations.

6. Standing plans help track ongoing business health

One thing that standing plans can unintentionally do is provide you with an idea of how areas of your business are performing. Since these plans are ongoing in nature, they provide a track record of changes you’ve made, best practices, and financial performance.

As for the single-use plans, they can only help fix a problem or improve an area of your business that you’ve already identified. Other than fixing what they’re designed for, they can’t help you determine how the business is doing.

You still need a business plan

Every business will likely use single-use and standing plans to take on specific initiatives or make ongoing improvements to a business function. However, these plans are no substitute for a full business plan.

Your business plan is far more robust and useful than these other smaller-scale plans. It summarizes how your business operates and includes your business structure, objectives, milestones, and financial performance. It’s a guide that helps you, and anyone else, better understand how your business will succeed.

While this may sound a bit overwhelming, writing a useful business plan can take as little as 30-minutes. Download our Lean Plan template, to start writing your own business plan today.

AvatarKaroki Githure

Karoki is a freelance content writer and blogger with experience writing about entrepreneurship, business, freelancing, and self-development. Apart from writing, he loves a little bit of adventure and creating beats/instrumentals on his digital audio workstation (DAW).