5Ws and an H of Getting Business Planning Right

There is an old saying; if you fail to plan, you have certainly planned to fail. That could not be more true in today's' highly dynamic and constantly changing business landscape. Thousands of entrepreneurs and businesses are being encouraged every day to try their luck by a global consumer base that is demanding high quality service, innovation and value at a pace previously unthought-of. Yet, many propositions end up either in the bin or biting the dust; the top reason behind this is initial failure to put in place the right plan.

Right planning not only provides the organization, business or an individual with the right course of action to achieve desired goals, but it also maximizes the chances of success in a highly competitive environment.

A planner, business leader, start-up or even a large organisation should weigh up and focus on following '5Ws and an H of Planning Process' before going ahead with an idea or project.

1W: The What(s)

The first W of the planning process is most critical as it demands analysis of the whats. For example; what is the basic proposition or what is the problem that needs a solution; what advantages the project will contemplate for the consumers, what value would it provide and what needs it would serve?

If you are planning a training program for an organisation, the question to consider is; what benefits is it likely to provide to employees? If the idea is to procure software for improving employee management, you should assess what improvements the organisation is expecting as a result. Initial probes like these will provide you a solid foundation and set the plan's objectives straight.

2W: The Whys

Once the initial questioning is over, the next W of the planning process explores the whys which means assessing why does the company or an individual want to build on the idea? As a planner, you must ask why does your organisation need to get involved; has a similar service or product already been attempted; why did it succeed or fail; why did the consumer prefer or dislike it, and why would end-users want your service or product instead of a competitor's? Answering the whys should be a decisive part of the planning as it will let you define the key qualities and help you differentiate the attributes of the product or service.

3W: The Who(s)

Building on the two earlier Ws and answering the third W, whos, will further help you in cementing the planning process. Key questions you should evaluate under this head are, who does the idea target; men or women; young or old; working class or elites, who will respond to this idea, and so on and so forth. In this stage of planning, you must also define who are the right people for the job? You must evaluate and answer who will be the best vendors, the executors or the recipient of a new in-house training. For example, a fire drill can include all employees of a 500-strong organisation, but an expensive corporate training exercise cannot include the entire workforce. You should only propose those who have the requisite knowledge and skills to capitalise on training and become even more effective individuals in the organisation.

4W: The When(s)

The fourth W of the planning process is clearly defining the whens; it will solidify your planning with clear and understandable timelines. It's proven that scheduling has a positive impact on any plan as employees and project participants have a clear idea of deadlines and deliverables. A winter sale will not be run in March, that's obvious; but planning the discounts before or after Christmas are key considerations and detrimental to business. To be a smart planner, you should take into account manufacturing cycles, lead times and other natural and environmental considerations, as a fresh stock of umbrellas won't serve anyone if delivered after the monsoon season.

5W: The Where(s)

The fifth W of planning stands for wheres. For concrete planning, it's crucial for you to explore these wheres for example; where will the raw materials be sourced from; where are the customers concentrated; where is the competitor operating; where should the marketing activities be conducted; where should the staff be trained, etc. These and other such questions will fortify the planning process with a sound knowledge of geographical/location-specific advantages and disadvantages and give the you and business heads a clear idea of how to manage risks, and limitations and maximise gains.

H: The How(s)

The H in the planning process describes the hows; which mostly arrive at the execution stage of the planning. Assessment of hows will help you set clear definitions of how all the brainstorming will be put into practice. In this part you should ideally answer how all the ideas and suggestions would be channelled to achieve the main objective of the organisation and how would the business scale the initial success or manage immediate setbacks. Logistics, supply and distribution side functions, deliveries and provision of services should be your key considerations of this part of the planning.

Given the fickle nature of the global village we inhabit and wave after wave of fads shaping our world, this '5Ws and an H Approach of Planning' will empower you to come up with sound planning that ensures both the short- and long term health of a business concern.