But keep your mask on…

Your year-end planning may seem like a totally different process this year – not even accounting for the logistics of having to do it at a distance, behind masks, or via Zoom – but uncertainty does not mitigate the need for solid strategy.

In fact, the chaos and challenges that have made 2020 such an unpredictable year make the need for a strategic plan even more essential. If you struggle to set goals and budgets in normal years, you may be facing the year where all of your procrastination and half-measures catch up with you and kick your aspirations to the curb.

We’re all so done with 2020 that it’s nice to think that the simple process of opening a fresh new calendar page counts as relief. It has to be better, right? But of course, that’s just small talk. Savvy business planning does not indulge in wishful thinking and it doesn’t wait for the course to reveal itself in perfect clarity. When does it ever?

That’s an attitude that diminishes business performance in normal times.

Pandemic Planning Advice

These are not normal times and real planning is even more crucial this year for an organization’s success. It may seem counterintuitive, but uncertain times make a solid plan more valuable – even given the risk of having to change course. Here are a few thoughts for planning from behind the mask:

  • Many organizations are giving in to an instinct for “wait and see.” What will the new administration do? When will the pandemic start to recede? They’re good questions, but this is a passive approach. By the time you have the answers, you won’t have enough time to take advantage of the business possibilities that arise.
  • Don’t fear uncertainty. Planning means a certain amount of guessing. And things are very foggy out there: What alphabet letter will the economy resemble? When the best you can do is to guess, you better get started. Keep checking your assumptions.
  • Your leadership team needs to explore and anticipate the possible futures that can emerge. This will leave them better prepared for dealing with whatever happens. As a product of planning, 80% of the companies I am working with are actively hiring the key employees they will need next year.
  • A year ago, the idea of a pandemic did not come up in the planning sessions we did with our clients. By April 1, most strategic plans had to be scrapped. Even so, the companies that had a plan to scrap were in a better position because of the time they had spent engaging and executing them.
  • Our clients have done well as the result of the discipline and focus they have developed in the planning process. While the focus changed, the disciplined approach to executing on a plan did not. Case in point: as the economy contracted in early spring and business declined, several of our companies in the uniform rental business had to dramatically retune their finances. Getting paid by clients who were also undergoing big changes became paramount. Keeping track of their clients’ changing situations and needs also became critical. Despite the challenges, one of our clients is touting the best customer service scores ever. Others are reporting minimal financial loss – a remarkable outcome given the circumstances.

How to Create Your Strategic Plan in 3 Days

So plan, guess, whatever, and get started. Schedule three days with your leadership team two to three weeks apart. Here’s a simplified outline:

Day 1

  • Complete 2020 by acknowledging and celebrating your accomplishments
  • Review what worked and what did not
  • Learn from what you did around COVID-19
  • Look at what you are taking into 2021 and what you are leaving behind
  • Raise the critical issues that you need to solve for a healthy 2021.

Day 2

  • Take on the critical issues that you highlighted
  • Collaborate on solving them
  • Do a SWOT analysis and determine which issues will take priority – if you do not know what a SWOT is, contact me – immediately.

 Day 3

  • Use this session to set your numbers and goals and update your one-page/two-page plan
  • If you do not know what that one-page plan should look like, contact meimmediately
  • Schedule monthly and quarterly meetings in which you update and refine the execution of the plan – by doing so, you are also creating next steps in your planning

Get Started with a Free Planning Session

Like exercise, a little planning is better than no planning. More planning is better than a little planning. Get your sessions scheduled, get started, and get into action. Wear masks in a spacious room, go to a park, or Zoom. Just start strategic planning.

Lastly, consider getting a business coach, aka me – it’s a lot harder to do it yourself. Create a future worth living into by scheduling a free planning session with me today.