One Page Business Plans

July 10, 2012

One Page Business PlansAre you an aficionado of the one page business plan?  I’m not and here’s why.

The first question I have is – who is the plan written for?  If it’s written for those who developed it as a sort of aide memoire, then that is a worry.  It’s equivalent to the person I met who asked me what I thought of Mission Statements (read my blog post about Mission Statements.  So I asked him if his company had one and he said yes.  So I asked him what it was.  He couldn’t remember.

If it’s written to provide guidance to all who work in the organisation then the lack of rationale behind its content will render it ineffective.  I heard of an organisation that had the business plan printed in minute type on a card that staff were encouraged to have with them at all times.  Did that promote organisational alignment – the fundamental requirement for effective implementation?  I doubt it.

In addition to its inability to positively influence its target markets, it has many other shortcomings as well.

  • Given the lack of space, it’s odds on that it’s only a summary of “this is what we are going to do” – the markets, products, activities, competitive strategy and competitive advantage that make up the Hub of the Wagon Wheel Way Operating System.
  • It won’t detail the rationale behind those five components.  This is essential for effective implementation.  If you want your staff to embrace change, they need to know the reasons behind the changes proposed.
  • The implications of “this is what we are going to do” on every function in your organisation will not be tabled.
  • It won’t have an initial Action Plan.
  • It won’t address one of the key components of any business plan which is – how do we do better what we currently do?
  • It doesn’t address the factors required to implement the plan.
  • It suggests – particularly if you print it on a card – that the plan is fixed for the period it covers.  Business plans need constant up-dating.
  • It’s unlikely that it says anything about how the plan and its implementation is to be monitored, measured and adapted.

That’s my view – what’s yours?


Simplicity Is The Ultimate Sophistication

July 10, 2012

Simplicity Is The Ultimate SophisticationI thought it was Steve Jobs who was responsible for the above quote but it seems that he might have stolen it from Leonardo Da Vinci.  No matter – it perfectly sums up Steve Jobs’ design philosophy and it’s something that I have striven for in the development of my Wagon Wheel Way Operating System.  I think that too many “experts” over complicate things these days and as a consequence those seeking enlightenment from their teachings are hard put to distinguish the wood from the trees.

It’s always fascinating to note what part of a presentation really resonates with an audience.  At a recent presentation of the WWW I was talking about Leadership, which the initiated will know is the third requirement to achieve “execution to die for”.  I made the point that Leadership is one of those topics about which millions of words have been spoken and written over thousands of years yet despite our ever increasing knowledge of the subject I see no evidence to support the hypothesis that the standard of leadership has risen – in fact I think it’s gone in the opposite direction for reasons that I won’t go into here.

So when I get to Leadership, I read out a selection of the traits of the Leader and Non-leader that appear in my book.  I didn’t come up with them – they are the inspiration of Robert Townsend who penned them in his second book – Further Up the Organisation – that was published in 1984.  For the benefit of Gen Y and some Gen X readers, Robert Townsend was the CEO of Avis whose advertising made it a virtue of being No.2 to Hertz – “We’re Number 2 so we try harder”.

I reproduce the selection below.



A coach appealing to the best in each person: open door: problem-solver and advice giver; cheerleader Invisible – gives orders to staff – and expects them to be obeyed
Thinks of ways to make people more productive; more focused on organisational goals; how to reward them Thinks of personal rewards, status, and how he or she looks to outsiders
Tough – confronts nasty problems Elusive – the artful dodger
Focused to the point of monomania on the organisation’s values and objectives Unfocused – except on self
Gives credit to others Takes credit – complains of lack of good people
Prefers eyeball to eyeball instead of memos Prefers memos, long reports
Knows people’s names Doesn’t know people’s names
Gives honest, open feedback Information flows one way – into his or her office
MBWA (Manages By Wandering Around) No MBWA
Honest under pressure Improvises, equivocates
Admits own mistakes: comforts others when they admit theirs Never makes mistakes; blames others; starts witch-hunts to identify culprits
Available Hard to reach from below
Good listener Good talker
Knows when and how to fire people Ducks unpleasant tasks
Knows the business and the kind of people that make it tick They’ve never met him or her
Has respect for all people Thinks blue collars and pink collars are lazy, incompetent ingrates
Consistent and credible to the troops Unpredictable – says what he thinks they want to hear
Delegates whole important jobs Keeps all final decisions

As soon as I start to read a selection of the above, the murmurs of approval and head nodding give way to nervous laughter and at the end of the presentation, people come up to me and ask for a copy of the list.  What appeals to them – and me – is that Townsend simply contrasted the behaviour of the Leader and Non-leader – no psychometrics, no theories, no justification, no references.  When I’ve finished with my selection I quote what Townsend wrote underneath his table.  “You now know more about leaders and leadership than all the combined graduate business schools inAmerica”.

I started this post with the quote that “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.  When I used it in one presentation, one member of the audience said:  “It reminds me of what Stephen Covey said – principles are the simplicity on the far side of complexity.”  That’s exactly right!  I wonder for how long Townsend thought about, observed and analysed leadership before he was able to distil his findings into these simple principles of behaviour?

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