"Scanning and Planning" - What is Scanning?


You know the saying "nobody plans to fail, they just fail to plan"? Yeah, there's a lot of truth in that. 

Too many times business owners come up with a great idea and set about implementing it, getting caught in the enthusiasm of the moment, only to watch it all fall apart down the track. 

For the most part, an idea is only as good as the scanning and planning that goes into assessing and implementing it. 

Lets talk about the first step, scanning. 


Scanning is the necessary (and sometimes dead boring) step of taking a moment to look around before charging ahead. It's fundamental to the planning process and the scanning step always takes place before the planning and implementing steps. Ideally it should be happening all the time and form a fundamental part of your business activities. Most business owners are doing this in a fairly informal way, but there are ways to formalise this process. 

Depending on your idea or business, you should be scanning both internally and externally. 

Internal scanning is about taking a beat to look at your operations, your strategy, your capacity. Ask yourself a few questions around these areas:

What am I (or my business) really good at? Where do I excel where my competitors falter?

This might be in the form of a skill set you or your key staff have spent time learning and developing; a highly efficient system; a style of leadership which inspires your team and keeps them engaged and motivated; a knack for understanding your niche; and so on. Use this knowledge to keep doing what works (don't lose these people, skills and systems!), and promote them to your customers. 

What am I doing that I could be doing better? 

The reverse of the first question helps you identify your areas for improvement. It can be helpful to talk to your staff, your suppliers, your customers, anyone who has contact with your business operations inside and out. Even consulting your significant other, or a family member who is familiar with what you do, and ask for their genuine and honest feedback on what they see as your key areas to focus on moving forward. 

You can look at your competitors to see what they are doing well where you lag, or make a wish-list or vision of where you'd like to see yourself or your business in 6 months time. 

A SWOT Analysis tool can help you with parts of your internal scanning. 

External scanning is looking outward to your environment. 

There are a lot of factors which can influence your next big move, or shape your strategy and tactics in bringing a new idea to life. To break down some of the biggest chunks, it can be very helpful to use a tool like a PEST Analysis. This simple tool walks you through the major chunks and helps you zoom in on areas you may have blind-spots. 

PEST Analysis takes in the political environment, the economic factors, the social influences and the technological aspects of the wider world and a smart use of this tool will help you unearth some real nuggets of information which can make or break your big idea. 

Understanding your competition is part of your external scanning process too, and it forms the second half of a SWOT Analysis. Really getting to grips with the threats and opportunities presented by your competition can reveal some sneaky pathways through the competitive landscape, or even help you respond like a ninja to threats and opportunities as they arise, stepping to the side to avoid threats, or leaping to great heights to take advantage of golden opportunties. 

When you find yourself awake at 3am facing all of the worries and excitement of rolling out a new idea, taking the time to organise your thoughts with some adept scanning can take the anxiety out of the process (or some of it at least!), and help you feel more confident in your next move.  

You might feel ready to tackle this process alone, good for you! If not, engaging an expert like me who can ask the pointed questions, get to the guts of the matter from arms length, and provide key insights beyond your experience may be just what you need.