When business gurus and management experts talk about building and growing a business, they always talk about planning. Planning makes people feel safe, knowing that there is some kind of a structure guiding them. However, most business owners are not doing the right kind of planning-and they don't even realize it.

Having a plan does not ensure that what is planned will actually come to pass: plans do not predict the future. But knowing how and what to plan for your business can make the difference between getting results and wasting your time.

Start with what's important to you.

A mediocre plan that you (and others) feel passionately about will serve you better than a technically superior plan that you don't feel that strongly about.

Approach planning as more of an art than a science.

Use your best thinking when you plan, but don't forget that even the best thinking involves guesswork. Be sure that you—and anyone developing portions of the business plan—document all assumptions that underlie the actual content of the plan.

Create a planning framework that accommodates change.

Your plan is not a rigid "final product." Think of it more as a series of guideposts: key topics to focus attention on and targets to aim for. Welcome opportunities to add to or revise any parts of your plan, or even eliminate parts of it. Don't follow through with something simply because it's "in the plan."

Treat the plan as a living, growing document.

Make a conscious decision to review your plan periodically, evaluate it, and revise it. Keep questioning your assumptions. Stay flexible and open to change. Don't let your pride or inertia get in the way of reworking the plan or moving forward.

The pace of change in today's world makes traditional planning virtually meaningless. The forces of technology and social change, among others, and their reach into our lives, call into question everything we do in business and everything we believe to be true about the way business operates. What we accept as reality today, changes in the blink of an eye. Even as you plan for your business, be ready for change, and embrace it.