Tactics are what I am doing this morning, Strategy is the afternoon...
I'm really not knocking plans. Broadly speaking I think you should have an idea of where you are heading and how you are going to get there just for your own reference. And of course if you're planning a 10 year mission to land a probe on Mars you need to plan with massive detail - plans are good, they have their place.
And I can see why Banks and funding bodies are keen on business plans - they don't know much about your business and a plan at least gives them something they can use to justify their investment.
But the big issue with plans in just about every other setting is that you can't see into the future - you can make some educated guesses, but as soon as you start committing detail to paper, those projections and stages become like little facts as opposed to 'targets' or 'expectations'.
As time passes, the further away you get from the thinking that surrounded the creation of the plan, the more tangible the numbers become, especially if you are now involving people who weren't involved at the beginning. And the further out you are projecting the more influence tiny things have on your plan.
The optimism that you felt at the start of the project when you saw an uncluttered view of the future has been tempered by unexpected developments, deadlines have been stretched, revenues for some reason aren't looking like a hockey stick..
In Pisys we've had lots of plans over the years, and they've all more or less turned out to be quite different from what we expected. In order to allow us to make decisions on a day to day and strategic basis we felt we needed some kind of guiding framework, but rather than a formal plan we decided on a set of guiding principles - a philosophy if you like.
Because these principles are simple and there are not many of them, it's a plan that lives every day - and we know that if we stick to our principles we will do ok under any measure of success.
By abstracting our planning to these simple rules we've created a tool that can be shared and used easily without reference to documents or diagrams.
For the record - here are our key principles:
Build products - we only undertake projects which will result in a product or a recurring revenue stream.
Target niche markets - we don't want to build the next SAP or Salesforce - we like niches where we can achieve a good market share quickly.
Under-promise and over-deliver - to staff and customers - we're still working on this one.