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In the era of COVID-19 Questions To Consider During Strategic Planning Sessions

The one thing which is always important but rarely urgent is strategic planning. Creating, reviewing, and updating your strategic plan are valuable exercises for successful Business—but they often get pushed off to be dealt with at another time. Well, there is no time like the present.

Where do you want to be in the next three years?                     

While some might balk at long term plans, they help people to frame a future vision.  When teams don’t articulate long range goals, they get trapped into incrementalism. Each year a little more growth is expected, a few changes are made and revenue and profit targets are increased. The result is a business that probably inches forward. The problem is that there is no milestone or strategic vision. Incrementalism, while good for small improvements, rarely works when a big shift is needed. Management teams need to lay out a clear vision for the business far ahead into the future. This vision then helps teams to reverse engineer goals for each of the preceding years.

What strategic goals do you have for the coming year?

Once a long term vision is in place, it is easier to project what needs to happen in the following year. Strategic goals and priorities allow companies to break apart a vision into sequential steps and sub goals. The key is to not have too many in a single year. Strategic goals and priorities should number no more three yearly and at maximum, five. Fewer priorities allow companies to dedicate their best resources and focus. They also signal the importance of each priority. Having too many priorities is the same as not having any, as observers will place less weight on each one.

What is the tactical plan for delivering on these goals?

A tactical plan is where the rubber meets the road. Tactical plans involve things like hiring, investments in infrastructure, technology and research and marketing campaigns.  Tactics are the actions, expenses, messaging which bring a strategy to life. During planning sessions, teams should create tactical plans that lay out the necessary capex, expense budgets, sales quotas, revenue forecasts, project plans, deadlines and accountability. Without a tactical plan, the strategy remains an academic exercise with a low chance of being executed.

What are the known risks?

Risk is an ugly topic, but an important one. Every plan will face risks and potential derailments. Some of these risks can be foreseen while others cannot. Management teams should outline the known risks, along with financial impacts and articulate the mitigation plans to prevent or curtail them. For common and known risks, teams should plan on prevention measures and budget for this outright.

In the era of COVID-19

One of the biggest obstacles to strategic planning is finding the necessary time to slow down and focus on the important instead of the urgent.

In the era of COVID-19—when all of us, like it or not, are forced to “slow down” due to social distancing, little to no travel and few, if any, in-person meetings and events—we have a distinct opportunity to use this extra time to think, strategize, and plan for the future. For many of us, the “urgent” now takes up a smaller share of our time and mental space, and we would do well to focus our attention (while we can) on the “important.”

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