How can any business go through a 2021 planning process when there is so much uncertainty due to the ongoing pandemic, economic crisis and BREXIT ? It may be tempting for some business leaders to delay planning. The temptation is understandable; nobody wants to waste time creating a detailed annual plan that will have to be scrapped in quarter 1, which happened to many businesses in 2020.
However, as I have previously written, your team is seeking confirmation of a direction. Everyone in your business is going to be working on something at the start of 2021, and without strategic clarity from you, how can they be confident they are working on the right things? Your job as a leader is to provide direction and help your team see how their work connects to the business’s goals. In uncertain times, providing a vision for the business and giving strategic clarity is even more important to your team.
You need a plan, but you can’t pretend all these external factors aren’t going to influence your ability to deliver it. Your process for 2021 strategic annual planning has to look different. Now’s the time to evaluate your planning process and decide what to start, stop and keep doing. Here are some examples of the kinds of areas for you to consider.
When you are setting your financial targets for 2021, you should identify possible scenarios based on what you know now and your best guess at how different scenarios could impact your business (your customers, your supply chain, your employees, etc.). You’ll need to set targets for the best case and worst case; develop a Plan A and a Plan B for your year.
Talk to Customers
Understanding your customers’ needs, challenges, and opportunities have never been more important. As you head into your planning process for 2021, you need to think deeply about how you can deliver unique value to your customers. This should underpin any strategic planning.
Make planning a process
Start now with discovery, market research, gathering data, and beginning the conversation. Schedule time to work on the plan for the year, and be sure to have a process in place for revisiting and adjusting the plan based on what you are learning as time goes on. Rather than spending 2 full days in a meeting room with your team, you might schedule multiple half-day sessions over the next few months to have some discussions, make some decisions, and learn and adjust the plan.
Work on your strategy continuously
If you know that one or more of your winning moves is no longer valid due to changing market conditions, don’t wait to pull the plug. Don’t waste any more time or energy on a losing move. Redeploy those resources to something else now, and begin working with your executive team on what opportunity might replace that revenue growth initiative.
Many companies switched their in person quarterly planning sessions to virtual meetings out of necessity this year. Consider keeping this format for your annual planning session, too. This cam be highly effective for having focused discussions, and with everyone working so hard on the ‘day job’, it can be easier to schedule a virtual session.
While this is always the best practice for your planning process, preparation has never been more important to your success. Keep your preparation process, ensuring you ask the team to do more thinking in advance of your planning process meetings so you can accomplish more with the time you are taking together to do this work.
"Your job as a leader is to provide direction and help your team see how their work connects to the business's goals"