Right operational business plans (Chapter 6)

Introduction to chapter (page 55)

Without operational plans our operational teams and we as managers work in a continuous fire-fighting mode. Reactively we cope with one obstacle after the other, continuously multi-tasking. This is the least efficient and effective mode of leadership.

Right operational plans (our surfboards) have a few features in common: they address constraints, are organized as causal trees and are represented on one single page.

Again a bold statement: top-down planning does not result in the best plans for all units of a company. Instead, we must set goals top-down, and design operational plans bottom-up.

What are business plans?

In the framework of operational leadership business plans define the vital few, key operational projects which will bring our business system to the operational goal.
To deliver that purpose the (operational) business plan must follow five rules, explained and discussed in SURF THE WAVES OF OPPORTUNITY in detail:

Rules for writing a business plan (pages 56 - 70)

1. Focussing the business plan on two purposes

1) Prevent upcoming obstacles

The business plan must address all obstacles we expect to hinder us from achieving our operational goal.
To do so, research your entire business ecosystem element by element to reveal these obstacles.

2) Resolve existing constraints

Our business might be constrained already today. In this case we need to identify that constraint (again, by analyzing our entire business ecosystem).
The business plan must contain a project to resolve such constraints.

2. Writing a business plan as causal tree from goal to action

We must align all elements of the plan to one single purpose: our operational business goal.

3. Distilling the operational plan to one single page

Follow Tilman's principle: "An expedition, which cannot organize itself on one page of normal letter paper, suffers from over-organization and will not succeed"

Download a free MS EXCEL(R) template for a constraint-focused operational business plan.

4. Writing a business plan for company units

Our position: top-down planning will result in weak or even useless business plans for company units. In the book we discuss this point and how it effects operational business plans for business units in detail.

5. Operationalizing the elements of the business plan

If you cannot measure it you cannot lead it. Each element of the operational business plan must
  • DoD ("definition of done"): how we measure the outcome, present value and results required,
  • Due date: by when we need the DoD achieved to achieve our operational goal,
  • Owner of the DoD and function in the ecosystem which must achieve the DoD,

Business plan sample (pages 71 - 119)

For a business plan sample, SURF THE WAVES OF OPPORTUNITY offers step by step instructions for writing a business plan, with detailed discussion of the business plan's elements:
  • Critical success factors: the non-negotiable states of the business ecosystem for achieving the operational goal,
  • Competitor's goals and business plan: how we expect the key competitors to aim at reaching these critical success factors,
  • Necessary conditions: our vital few business change/improvement projects to reach the critical success factors - overcoming or neutralizing our competitors' efforts,
  • Obstacles we expect to face in these projects,
  • Commitments of function owners for how to overcome these obstacles.