2020 challenged our tactical brilliance, but it was not the year to engage in strategic planning. So, as we begin 2021, many leadership groups wonder if they should re-engage their long-term planning efforts.
In prior posts, I explored how to determine if it is time to re-engage in strategic planning and, if it was not time, what alternative strategic thinking exercises you should conduct this year. Now, I want to explore the risk of postponing all strategic planning efforts until 2022 or later.
Perhaps we should start with why leaders or leadership teams want to hold off on spending time on their long-range planning?
- The most common reason is to wait for a more stable environment before planning for their future. After the unpredictability and uncertainty of last year, many leaders are focused on managing what feels like a never-ending time of constant change. They can't turn their attention to the future until things are more settled.
- They are concerned they may not prevail post-Covid. Many entities have not survived the severe restrictions and economic downturn in our economy caused by this pandemic. Sadly more will fail as we wait for vaccines to reach everyone. For leaders barely holding on, engaging any time on long-range planning seems just plain dumb.
- Their optimism is crushed. The pressure on leaders and leadership teams to be creative and optimistic over the last 12 months has been intense. Yet, time and time again, we have seen leaders rise to this challenge and meet it with creativity and commitment. But for many, this reservoir may be empty. They may not have the emotional strength to participate, let alone lead a planning effort.
While these three reasons for not wanting to think about long-range planning are all valid, balancing them against the risks in further delaying strategic planning work is essential before making a commitment to management priorities for 2021. Here are three threats to consider against your reasons for pausing the planning button.
- You may create a leadership void. Staff members are always seeking direction and testing for how leaders see the future. They will understand that their leaders don’t have a clear answer to their questions during uncontrollable change. However, when stability emerges, they expect a compelling story of recovery. If that is not available from their leaders, their patience can turn quickly to weakening confidence or distrust.
- You may limit your options. Not everyone will hold off on setting a new plan for the future. Many will digest their reality, assess the environment, evaluate the risks, and create a plan for their future success. Their action will undoubtedly result in fewer options for those that wait.
- Tactical maneuvering locks you in. To survive, many have demonstrated brilliant tactical maneuvering. As this pandemic enters year 2, the path you are now on may take you to a place you did not intend to go. For some, this is a great thing. For others, it is not. Waiting to evaluate this could mean shifting back is too costly or not viable. You are unintentionally locked in.
The risks of waiting to start your post-Covid future are real, as are the reasons to delay. But deciding to hold off should be examined thoroughly before finalizing your management plan for 2021.
Need help getting started thinking about reengaging in long-range planning? We can help. Contact us to explore what approach might work best for your group.