Planning is one major aspect of being a strong leader in business. There are many phases that go into planning that can be detrimental when overlooked. A solid leader is fully aware of all of the stages of planning, which include: maintaining flexibility, setting goals, developing action plans, developing commitments, tracking progress, and goal achievement.


An effective leader understands, foremost, that planning is important, but they must always remain flexible throughout the goal-achievement process. Even well-planned objectives can fall short of goal achievement; because there is always the potential that some large or small part of a project will fail. Without flexibility, any part of a plan that does not work could result with total failure.


To prevent total failure, two good options are to organize option-based planning and to have slack resources. An option-based plan considers what could go wrong. With option-based planning, the leader must recognize major blockers to goal achievement and prepare several action plans, picking the most reasonable option first, but being ready with alternatives, in case what seems to be the best option is actually poorly conceived. Slack resources are money, set aside from the main budget, for emergencies. Slack resources can be difficult to manage, but also a substantial part of success. These resources are only to be used to adapt to unanticipated changes that must be made in the original plan. A major benefit to having slack resources is that if they are unused, the project will be completed under budget, which is always an advantage for a business leader. In contrast, if a business leader does not create an action plan that includes slack resources, the leader risks having to request additional money for their budget, which is certainly not ideal.


After recognizing that flexibility is a must when planning, a business leader has to set goals. The best way to do this is to be very specific about those goals. To ensure goals are specific, a leader should consider if their goals are measurable and attainable. If a goal cannot be measured, it would not be considered specific. If a goal is unattainable, the business leader is setting up failure.


To know if goals are attainable, a leader should be aware of the time they have to complete these goals. Reasonable, specific, goals will fit into a neat timetable. A good leader will seek out advise during the goal-setting stage, especially acknowledging the timetable. Consider contacting peers, team members, or both, for recommendations concerning timetables.


For a business leader, developing action plans consists of an awareness of the specific steps in the process, and who and what will be involved. At this stage, lists and tables will help a leader be more effective. Consider: how to achieve your goals, who will need to be involved, what resources you will need, and when you would like to have your project completed.


Once goals have been set and action plans have been created, the business leader is responsible for developing commitments to goal achievement. Every individual involved in the goal achievement process must be aware of what is expected from them, or they cannot contribute to the goal achievement. At this stage, a good leader is as clear as possible with what they will need and expect from others.


As the process continues, when expectations change those changes need to be clearly explained to everyone involved in the process.It is also essential to let individuals know when they are, or are not, meeting expectations throughout the entire process.


The final part in effective planning for a business leader is to track your progress. Setting short- and long-term goals are the best way to track progress. With short-term goals, a business leader should be as specific as possible with expectations for every individual, resource, and with time frames. The tracking of progress will more easily enable the business leader to recognize when there are issues and aid the leader in the fixing of these issues.


If a business leader is familiar with all aspects of the planning cycle, they will be more successful with goal achievement. Always remember, in each stage, flexibility is a principle trait for a strong leader.


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