The days of having to produce lengthy business plans in a many-paged document, that inevitably gets shelved to collect dust, are fast disappearing.
Instead, smart people are turning to lean business planning to get things done. It’s an efficient and effective method that doesn’t skimp on strategy, is practical and usable.
What is lean business planning?
Lean planning is simple, efficient business planning that starts with a core idea or business goal/objectives that includes regular review and revisions along the way.
Lean business planning is all about action - planning, doing, reviewing and adjusting as you go.
Part of the idea behind lean business planning is that you don’t know how things will go until you try them. Ultimately, it provides a structured way for you to learn by doing.
Lean business planning is a lot easier than producing a traditional business plan. It’s not a big formal document. It’s streamlined, in bullet points, lists, tables - whatever is relevant to you to run your organisation, and review and revise regularly.
The benefits of lean business planning
There are many benefits to lean business planning. Here are just a few.
- It forces you summarise the key points, not elaborate
- It provides easy tracking - it's specific, concrete and measurable
- It’s accessible - decision makers can access it visually, and all on one page
- It lets you get started in a planned way quickly
- It’s dynamic - you can review and adjust as you go.
Starting with a focus
As with a traditional business plan, you need to start with a strategic goal, focus or objective.
Strategy is all about focus - specific target markets using specific products or services.
Your strategic focus will be based on your strengths, or point of difference, that links you to your potential students or other customers, and the educational service or products you are offering them. It defines how you want to set your organisation apart from the crowd.
You can summarise your strategy in a variety of ways - it could be bullet points, using charts, a short story that visualises the future state, or even with a series of images.
While everything in a lean business plan is subject to change through experience, the strategy focus changes more slowly than the rest of the plan in response to changing conditions.
Once you have your focus in place, it’s time to start on bringing a plan together in one place - this is done through the Business Model Canvas.
The Business Model Canvas - bringing a plan together
The Business Model Canvas is a one-page template for developing your business plan.
It has nine building blocks that pull together the essentials of your plan. These include:
Your customer segments - who are you creating value for?
The value propositions for each of your customer segments
The channels you’ll use to reach your customers
The customer relationships you have, or need to establish
The revenue streams you generate
The key resources you need to create value
The key activities you need to create value
The key partners you have, or need to establish
Cost structure of your business model.
These elements all get mapped out on one page: the business model canvas. This means you can see everything on one page - and only the essentials of each section - which allows you to easily change elements as you go.
The perfect way to involve decision makers
One of the benefits of the lean business plan, and working with a business model canvas, is that it’s a great way to interactively bring your decision makers, and any others you need to plan, on board.
The canvas can be printed out on a large surface, or even drawn on butcher’s paper by hand, so groups of people can start sketching and discussing business model elements with Post-It notes or board markers, felt tip pens, crayons...whatever you have to hand.
It’s a hands-on, accessible way to foster understanding, discussion, creativity, and analysis.
The concept of lean business planning is quite a shift from the old style of a big polished document, but ultimately your Board, Managers, Executive Management team, whoever you’re presenting the business plan to, will thank you for it. No more hefty, inaccessible tomes to laboriously read through!