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Systems Thinking Part 6: Business Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan

Category: Ag Business, Succession Planning, Farm Business Planning | No Comments

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group gathered around a computer while a woman writes in a notebookBusiness Planning includes the yearly budget and strategic plan which generate key initiatives to drive your business. As you set your objectives and goals for the coming year, keep in mind “systems thinking.”

Every decision you make impacts other areas of your business, and you do not want to suffer unintended consequences because you failed to look at the big picture (See blog #3 for more on this).

Pro Tip: To prevent this, I recommend a “farm calendar” that includes all areas of your business and maps out your monthly, quarterly, and yearly plans.


As you consider each objective, ask yourself and your team:


  • Is this objective consistent with our strategic plan, business focus, and financial position?
  • Is it realistic but challenging?
  • Is it a SMART goal?
    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Achievable
    • Realistic
    • Time-based
  • Do we have the personnel/skillsets needed to carry it out? Do we have the needed finances and other resources?
  • Does this objective support our business’s core values and commitment to enhancing natural resources?
  • How will this goal be communicated to all members of the team?
  • Is it (or will it be) understood by all members of the team?
  • Is it clear who is in charge and ultimately responsible for the results?
  • Is this initiative results-focused?
  • What is the feedback mechanism to monitor this initiative?
  • What is my plan, as manager, to follow up?
  • Where does this objective fit as we prioritize our goals for the coming year?
  • Is our list of objectives for this next year balanced? Does it represent all areas of the business, with emphasis on those areas identified as most in need of improvement?
  • Is our team flexible enough to re-order priorities as situations change?


Who needs to be involved with the planning of your business?


All stakeholders should be involved at some level. Certainly all owners and members of the board of directors (if you have one) should be integrally involved in the process of setting objectives and planning. Managers and workers should help with planning of details for initiatives in their specific area. The truth is that participation in the planning process builds buy-in/ownership and enhances commitment. When workers understand the “why,” the importance of what they are doing and how it contributes to the overall objectives of the business, they will be encouraged to work harder to achieve desired results.


How do I implement these initiatives?


As we mentioned in the previous blog, planning without follow-through (implementation) has no benefit. The importance of implementation cannot be emphasized too strongly. We believe this is what separates Family Farms, LLC from others in providing value to producers. We not only help member farm families define and prioritize their objectives, but we also guide them to develop workable implementation plans. Their personal farm coach then holds them accountable for progress toward their goals, ensures they gain maximum benefit from the many resources in our network, and guides them to achieving their objectives.

implementation strategy graph


Review: Steps of the planning process

  1. The planning process begins with a good, hard look at your business today. A SWOT analysis is a tool often used to start that discussion process.
  2. Define where you want your business to be in the future, both near-term and long-term, and what needs to happen to get there.
  3. Prioritize objectives to move from where you are today to where you want to be.
  4. Write SMART goals.
  5. Write action plans to define specific steps your team will take. Be sure to include deadlines, measurable goals and assign one person or a team responsible for achievement of each goal.


After planning comes communication, implementation, follow-up, measuring results and, finally, celebration of objectives accomplished. Communication is vital throughout all steps. Don’t try to save time by skipping the analysis and planning process. These steps will help you define what needs to be done and how it should be done. Once they are complete, you are ready for implementation.

This completes the series on the Management Skillset. You can read part 1 of the series here.

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