The Power of the One-Page Business Plan

  • Introduction                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Have past business-planning efforts left you and your team frustrated with the process? Are you unable to come up with plans that are actionable, accountable and results-oriented? Do your business plans end up gathering dust on the shelf rather than driving performance in your company?
  • You’re not alone.

    For too many companies, annual planning is a complicated and time-consuming process that frustrates employees and accomplishes little. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With one-page business planning (OPBP), you and your team can quickly and easily agree on and align around a set of strategies and objectives. More important, you can then effectively implement those plans without experiencing the frustrations normally associated with the planning process.

    A Results Orientation

    The essence of the OPBP system is that each manager, executive, and key employee is asked to reduce their part of the typically thick corporate planning documents to a single page. On this page they put their understanding of what they are personally responsible for doing — their piece of the company’s plan.

    Specifically, the OPBP requires everyone to write the following for their position, company or department:

  • A vision statement
  • A mission statement
  • A set of measurable objectives, with scorecards
  • A set of longer-term strategies
  • A list of action plans or tasks to be accomplished, with due dates, and with running progress reports on each
  • Once the pages are written, they are reviewed by everyone on the team and used to manage the implementation process. The system is easy to implement, and can be used for running the planning processes with companies of any size.Multiple BenefitsIn addition to being quicker and easier than traditional planning, the one-page business planning process offers many important benefits:
  • Focus on results. The structure of OPBP focuses everyone on results. Every employee describes the results they expect to produce, and every month they track their results. Accountability is always present.
  • Better allocation of resources. The OBPB process requires each person to find appropriate measures for tracking performance. These measures are not imposed from outside. Instead, OPBP requires everyone to think through the right measures for their respective functions and how to allocate resources accordingly.
  • Get everyone excited. Because people aren’t inundated with reams of paper and endless meetings, they can devote their time to thinking through how to be more effective in their jobs in the coming year. Rather than considering planning a time-consuming project with little payoff, people get excited about the process and the usefulness of the results.
  • Easy adjustments. With OPBP, all the information is in the same format with the same level of detail. And because everything is on one page, making changes is effortless. Plans can be changed “on the fly” in meetings as better ways to get things done are discussed, and people can watch the process take place as it happens in real time.
  • Improved alignment. After initial completion of the plans, people make adjustments to their objectives, scorecards, strategies and action plans. Everyone then works on alignment — deciding who should do what and thinking through problems and actions that lack alignment. After one or two monthly assessment meetings, most of the major changes will have been made. Going forward, everyone knows what they are responsible for, how it will be measured, and how their results fit with what everyone else is doing.
  • Effective implementation. Once everyone has their OPBP, it becomes relatively easy to manage the company in terms of the plans. Each person provides regular progress reports by entering a hard number into the scorecards for their objective. The scorecards are read prior to management meetings so that everyone can focus on problem areas where the numbers are not being met. It takes a maximum of 30 minutes each month for people to make the updates, and the payoff is huge.
  • Improved communication. Because each person’s plan, progress reports, and objective performance measures are constantly updated, the OPBP process fosters complete communication among company leaders about what each of them is doing. When companies use the OPBP process, they inevitably see opportunities they have previously overlooked.
  • Short meetings. Most meetings are 85 percent updates and 15 percent action planning or problem solving. With OPBP, these numbers get reversed. Everyone gets progress reports and scorecards in advance, so that the meeting can focus on solving problems and taking advantage of opportunities.Learn by DoingBest of all, the OPBP process actually teaches while you are working with it.The requirement to put down the vision, mission, objectives, strategies, and action plans compels people to think in that structure. As people make adjustments to their plans, they begin getting better at identifying what needs to be done and when. Soon, the language of results begins to pervade the company so that people focus on results rather than just activities. This is especially true in companies where many people have not had such training. In fact, some have said that putting their managers through the OPBP process was like putting people through the first year of getting an MBA.

    When you want a flexible plan that offers a consistent message and is easy for everyone to understand, try the one-page business planning process. If you’re unsure whether this process is right for you, ask yourself, “What impact would it have my on my company to have everyone thinking in an ‘accountable for results’ way?”

    Vistage Associate Howard Levin is president of the Impact Group PC, a business planning consulting firm based in Elkins Park, Pa.

    For more information on the concept of the one-page business plan, see these MyVistage articles:

  • Effective Business Plans, featuring former Vistage Associate Jim Horan
  • CEO Tools: Action Items, featuring Vistage speaker Kraig Kramers

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