2020 was a horrible year. The massive changes and uncertainty destabilized everything, the least of which was our ‘planning and managing disciplines.’ As we enter our second year of this global pandemic, leaders are asking us, “It is time to get planning back on track?”
Last week I posted an article on this topic. In Time to Get Back-On-Track with Strategic Planning? I outlined three indications that now might be the right time to reengage in long-range planning. This week, I want to focus on what you can do if it is NOT the right time for your group to dig into future planning.
By the first part of 2021, all teams should be moving from the reactionary mode of 2020 to establish a new foundation of stability. The first step is to take a full inventory of the havoc the global pandemic caused to your business, your market, and your assumptions about how to proceed.
If conducting a comprehensive strategic planning process is not appropriate for your entity now, you should complete a thorough Strategic Assessment early in 2021 with a few extra steps to compensate for these extraordinary times.
The elements of our Strategic Assessment structure always include:
- examining your assets,
- identifying the key challenges or obstacles you can see in your future,
- exploring the favorable forces in your environment that you can leverage for achieving a greater degree of success, and
- outlining the vulnerabilities that worry you as you look to the future.
With the intense and pervasive disruption of the last year, we recommend three Extra Pandemic Recovery Steps to conduct a Strategic Assessment in 2021.
- Re-evaluate your target audience and their needs. For many of us anxious to jump back into operations, we might do so with the assumption that our target audience’s needs are the same as they were before Covid restrictions. Although this may be true, I would hesitate to bet on it without first evaluating how my target audience’s preferences, patterns, and new realities have impacted the current and near-term needs my business model serves.
- Fully explore how Covid restrictions and changing customer patterns have impacted your market and your competitive set. I am sure everyone is aware of how their market has changed, but don’t assume that everyone on your leadership team views those changes equally. Take the time, now, before too much time passes in this recovery year, to openly discuss how you view your market now and how your competitive set might have shifted. Use this discussion to strengthen your near-term and longer-term planning priorities. If there have been extensive changes, you should move ahead with strategic planning sooner than later.
- Re-examine the core assumptions of your business model and strategies. Typically, when a planner talks about “assumptions,” they refer to financial variables that drive calculations in a financial projection. I want you to think bigger than just how your spreadsheets work. After a shift as dramatic and widespread as this pandemic's global riff, we need to identify and examine ALL our assumptions, those you are aware you have/use and those of which you are unaware. To do this, organize a meeting to generate a list of all the beliefs you have about things that influence your planning and managing. Start with your business, market, customers, operations, funding, and go wherever the conversation takes you.
Each leadership team has its unique list of assumptions. After this unprecedented period of disruption, this list should be identified and examined to see if they are still important to your future success and, if they are, how the pandemic impacted them.
2021 will not be a typical planning year for anyone. Our still-uncertain future will shorten planning timeframes and will make us more tactical in our planning and managing. Avoid the potential short-sidedness of a tactical approach by taking the time to conduct a thorough Strategic Assessment with our Three Extra Pandemic Recovery Steps this year to feel confident in delaying strategic planning for next year.
Want to discuss how we might help your team conduct this Strategic Assessment?