Just as the last year presented unprecedented management challenges, post-pandemic strategy development conversations will face issues never experienced before.
Here are three realities to consider as your organization prepares to re-engage in strategic planning.
Greater demand for strategic direction. A strategic direction is a comprehensive story of how an organization will evolve as it strives towards its long-range vision. During the pandemic, most leaders hit pause on making progress towards their vision to manage ever-changing variables. Now, as they reconvene from what for some may have been a two-year or more gap in strategic planning, there is pent-up demand for connection to a more compelling destination than just survival. Planning discussions will need to define both the story of emergence as well as how near-term momentum will lead to long-term growth goals.
Over-reliance on short-term thinking. In direct opposition to the need for a strategic direction, planning efforts will also be challenged by individuals stuck in the responsive, short-term mindset the pandemic forced on management. Like a muscle strengthened by extensive use, the tactical perspective or the focus on quick, smart, and effective short-term decision-making may still dominate planning discussions. While it is true that we are still in times of high change, overdependence on short-term thinking will limit growth during this next economic cycle. Leadership teams need to rebalance their planning and managing capabilities with an appropriate mix of long-range, strategic thinking, and short-term tactical brilliance.
The demand for incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in planning. Gone are the days when the workplace was out of bounds for social justice/social evolution/social movements. 2020, and the years leading up to it, have led to a sea change in how businesses need to plan for their evolution. Diversity efforts can no longer be satisfied with recruiting representation from minority communities. Diversity is about how businesses examine and serve their markets and how they manage their increasingly diverse stakeholder groups. Equity is also being defined in revolutionary ways that will impact how businesses define performance metrics. And inclusion means leaders will be judged (possibly even more) by how they have sought out others in their planning and management process than by what conclusions these efforts produce.
This new paradigm is substantially unknown and honestly scary for most leadership teams. The fundamentals of planning efforts, analyzing benchmarking, setting goals, building plans, and tracking progress are inadequate for today's DEI demands. DEI is a stream of unfamiliar water all leadership teams must wade into carefully and consciously, testing and learning with each step. An intimidating prospect for most and terrifying for many, but those who ignore DEI or try to contain this cultural demand with initiatives will increase the pressures to embrace it, ultimately putting their organizations at a competitive disadvantage.
Yikes! Will there be any familiar planning challenges?
Yes, for sure.
There will be the same overdependence on data-driven analysis that tends to raise more questions than answers. And for those that don't take the time to prepare for robust planning discussions, there will be unmet expectations from those that want to explore topics more deeply. But this year, more than ever before, leadership teams need to prepare to face the unique challenges of post-pandemic reality as they re-engage in long-range planning.
The world has changed. Make sure your next planning effort takes advantage of these changes to establish a new competitive advantage.