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Business planning requires focus on the process not the document.

Business planning requires focus on the process not the document.

Surprise. A venture capitalist and I actually agree! (deep silence)

I heard Richard Sudek, Director of the entrepreneurial program at Chapman University’s Argyos School of Business and Economics and past Managing Director of the Tech Coast Angels, speak at Inside Edge in Orange County. I found myself nodding “Yes” to most everything he said, instead of shaking my head no and wondering how these guys make any money. Having spent the last 7 years in CEO and Executive offices of funded startups/growth companies, I can tell you that rarely do VC’s and I have a meeting of the minds except when it comes to exit plans.

Richard talked about business plans. Most everyone is bullish on them and the conventional wisdom is you can’t succeed without one. I have never understood how a couple page document could be the secret to success, especially since only a small percentage of companies successfully execute their original business plan. Richard suggested that what is important about business planning is the process needed to develop a plan. I couldn’t agree more. IT’S THE PROCESS, NOT THE PLAN that’s important. A sheet of paper means nothing without profound understanding of the concept and market, tight alignment among the team members regarding approach, direction and business model, and the commitment that comes from deep thinking about the opportunities and challenges ahead as well as the soul searching needed to go forward in the midst of inevitable uncertainty. It is the shared understanding and complete commitment that come from going through the planning process together that generates success. A business (or project) plan is only worth the process that went into it. The document is just a statement of the profound conversations, considerations and commitments that have resulted in the plan. One page or 100 pages – what was the process that went into developing the plan?

About the Author

Lori MazanLori Mazan is the founder of Leading From Center, originally started as Seventh Wave coaching in 1996. A seasoned advisor and executive coach herself, Lori also provides high caliber, hand picked and personally supervised affiliate coaches. One of the first 300 certified coaches in the US, Lori has been working for almost two decades with Fortune 100 executives in companies including Chevron, Sprint, and Roche/Genentech, as well as funded growth companies like Coverity, Intellikine, and Tapjoy. Her background includes training thousands of people in leadership skills ranging from deep listening to complex arenas of conflict resolution, motivation, and organizational and political savvy. Blending experience with theory, Lori taught 10 years of college level social psychology and group dynamics courses. Lori lives in Southern California with her son, two cats and a dozen goldfish. She has a 20+ year practice in the art of Tai Chi Chuan.View all posts by Lori Mazan →

  1. admin

    “Wanted to let you know I was reading your blog and couldn’t agree more with your comments in your ‘Surprise’ article about the importance of the process vs the output or plan. As a director of large enterprise projects with lots of complexity, dependencies and stakeholders, I insist my teams go through the often times painful process of developing plans to get people thinking critically about what needs to be done, and with whom. As you say, this goes a long way towards gaining alignment and commitment and minimizes ‘who shot John’ and other misunderstandings down the road. The plan ultimately serves as a good reference and guide, but it’s the PROCESS that gets the job done.” – William Ball, Project Director, HRIS Project, American Red Cross

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