So, how’s that 2021 strategic plan? Is it ready to go? If it’s like most things during this time of COVID, it’s running late. If that’s true for you, don’t give up. Dust off last year’s plan or the draft of this year’s plan and get to it.
If you’ve been doing reviews and updates monthly or quarterly, or even better bi-weekly, then good for you, you are already most of the way there, but you are in the minority, especially with the chaos of the last year making planning so difficult. However, keep in mind it was Eisenhower who said, “Plans are nothing, planning is everything,” and he was right. Even in these unpredictable times, it’s important to do your best to plan.
One of your goals for 2021 should be to keep your strategic plan alive and current throughout the year – especially because this year promises to be very challenging. There are 4 key steps for doing that successfully:
I often go into companies and they are so busy doing business, meaning day-to-day operations, etc., that the goals they set out at the beginning of the year ended up ignored. With the challenges of 2020, this was especially true and most strategic plans were thrown out the window. “Pivot” became one of the top business terms of the year and for many companies, just trying to stay alive and keep going became the major focus.
But in 2021, we’ve learned a lot about the lay of the land and what it means to operate a business during this pandemic. Continuous planning coupled with execution is one of the keys to business success and that is still true. If you plan at the beginning of the year and never adjust you are always reacting to what’s happening instead of making things happen. To change this trajectory start by reviewing what happened last year. How did your business change? How did you do? What happened? What can we learn from that? The next step is to revise, change what didn’t work, and come up with some new ideas or strategies that might work.
It’s critical that you don’t do this process of reviewing and revising in a vacuum. You may be the owner or head of the company, but that doesn’t mean you have all the best ideas. The ideas are in the room. They are from your managers and employees whom you have hired and put faith in. Listen to what they have to say and shape it into a plan that everyone can get behind. One thing is for certain, we are in the era of “all hands on deck” and now is the time to be sure you are getting everyone’s best ideas.
Step 3 is to reinvent. So often we are caught in our plan because of our beliefs around “what is.” It colors our beliefs about what “could be.” When I facilitate planning exercises, I tell people to think 3 years ahead and color in the picture for me of what the company looks like, who the customers are, what products are you selling and to whom, etc. But NOT based on the facts of today, based on the possibilities of tomorrow. It’s only in our belief that something can happen that it will. So reinvent the future, from a place of possibility, not restriction. What might your business do that it could never have done before? What problems can be addressed that previously had no solutions or options?
This doesn’t need to be a long, drawn-out process. In fact, given our currently rapidly changing world, the quicker and more agile you are with this, the better. You will need a competent facilitator (preferably not you, the owner or leader) and a target of where you want to go. The bones of a plan that can be implemented and an easy process for getting there. Too much complexity in the strategic plan and everyone will be overwhelmed. Keep it simple and executable. And remember to build in your review times so you can revise and reinvent, and then finally, repeat!