In 2003, I was hired by an investment management firm who were experiencing some challenges and said they wanted to develop a business plan for their company. I told them I thought they needed a story rather than a business plan. I began the conversation by introducing the idea of moving from a business plan to the idea of creating a management process.
Enterprises exist to achieve an outcome. Commercial enterprises exist to earn income and increase their value by providing services that benefit others.
Many commercial enterprises attempt to create a business plan that articulates what they are trying to achieve and how they plan to achieve it. The plan is usually developed to guide the efforts of the enterprise. Sometimes its purpose is to convince others to invest in or otherwise support the efforts of the enterprise.
A business plan is normally bound by time frames of committed courses of action. Performance against plan is often measured against outcomes that are dependent upon circumstances and events that are often beyond the ability of the enterprise to manage. The responsibility and ability to change the plan, if it gets changed, is usually limited to a few people. Also, the plan frequently outlines strategies for the enterprise without identifying accountability for performing activities.
The tendency to evaluate performance against desired outcomes, rather than managed outcomes; the static nature of the plan, which does not recognize the systemic and dynamic nature of things; and the difficulty of integrating changes in circumstances, conditions and events, and new information, ideas, challenges and opportunities into the plan can militate against its effectiveness as a guide for decision-making, resource allocation, and action.
An alternative is to create a management process to define our intents, decide what we will do to achieve our intents, observe what happens and what is working, and determine what to do better, what to do differently or what other things we might do that could work better.
The Management Process
The intent of the management process is to improve the quality of the decisions we make and our ability to manage what we do to increase the value of our enterprise.
We decide our intents or desired outcomes and what we will do to achieve these outcomes. Our intents focus our decisions and activities. What we decide and what we do is what we manage.
The process ensures that everyone understands our intents and what we are doing which gives everyone opportunities to contribute observations and ideas.
Our vision is our intent for the firm. It articulates what we are and what we like to be. Part of our vision is the value proposition we offer to clients.
Our vision provides the foundation for our management decisions and activities. It guides the development of the platforms we build to realize our vision; the acquisition and development of our clients, the delivery and enhancement of our value proposition, and the care and development of our resources.
This involves deciding and agreeing upon our intents and what we will do to develop the value of our client base, the value of the services we offer, and the value of our resources.
The process becomes one of managing what we do. This involves assigning responsibility for doing things and creating forums to observe what is happening.
We focus our attention on whether we have done or are doing what we decided, and how well we are doing it. We observe what is happening and what is working and use our observations to decide how we might do things better or differently and to determine what we think will work better.
Whether we are doing what we agreed is a quantitative observation. How well we are doing it and how well it is working is a qualitative observation. How well we do things depends on our ability, our capacity and our attitude.
Responsibility for creating the vision and the value proposition for the enterprise lies with the custodians of the enterprise. The vision and value proposition is reviewed annually.
Responsibility for deciding what we do to achieve our vision and increase the value of the firm lies with the management group who are the custodians of the management process. What we are doing and how well we are doing is reviewed quarterly.
Responsibility for the acquisition and development of our clients lies with the custodians of our clients’ interests. Our intents, what we are doing and how well we are doing are reviewed monthly.
Responsibility for the delivery and enhancement of the value we offer lies with the custodians of our value proposition. Our intents, what we are doing and how well we are doing are reviewed monthly.
Responsibility for the care and development of our resources lies with the custodians of our shareholders’ interests. Our intents, what we are doing, and how well we are doing are reviewed monthly. A report on the state of the firm is made to the shareholders quarterly.
Issues and opportunities which require or could benefit from the involvement of the management group are presented for decision and action at the weekly management
Our vision articulates our intent for the enterprise. It is what we are and what we like to be. Our vision describes what we are, what we do, who we do it for, who we are, how we like to be, how we do things, how we like to do things, and what we are trying to do
Our Value Proposition
Our value proposition articulates why people should do business with us. Our value proposition describes what we promise, what we deliver, what makes us different, and what makes us relevant
The conversation I started with my client about moving from the idea of a business plan to the idea of a management process is in the language, interests, and culture of business management. The story for the company evolved through a series of more focused conversations on the vision, value proposition, and intents of the enterprise.
A Creative Story
A creative story is the foundation for creating successful enterprise and a foundation for creating community around common enterprise. Creating common enterprise as a community also requires creating a language of community.
Creating a language of community for creative community enterprise means moving from a language of ideas that contribute to creating us and them to a language of ideas that contribute to creating we, and to creating possibilities as a community.
- From business plan to creative story
- From vision and mission to interests and enterprise
- From value proposition to opportunities and contribution
- From management to leadership
- From marketing to creating community around our enterprise
- From creating our enterprise to creating our story
The language of community improves our ability to create connections across our different languages, interests, and cultures and make creative conversation around ideas, opportunities, and creative enterprise possible regardless of the nature of the enterprises or communities of interests involved.
I worked with the Vancouver Stock Exchange for many years and one of the things our firm was asked to do was to review the business plans of companies wanting to be listed on the exchange. Our job was to explore whether the business plan made sense, whether there was demonstrated evidence of a market or that a market could be created, whether the company had a reasonable and realistic strategy and whether the company had the resources and abilities to accomplish what it imagined could happen.
I learned that business plans, with their limitations, are just an imagination of possibilities for creating an enterprise. What I also learned is we make our decisions on what we invest in based more on our feelings and on trust than on reason, which is easily observable and dramatically demonstrated in our individual and social behaviour.
When we live in a world where trust is more important than truth we have a responsibility to create stories which contributes to creating a world which is based on the closest possible version of truth which will contribute to creating the best possible version of our reality and realities. If we care.
Contributing to creating a story which contributes to the interests, ideas, and possibilities we imagine for ourselves and our community, – the people we care about, – is the reason why we most often invest in and become part of creating an enterprise.