Originally published by Orange Leaf Consulting on October 6, 2020

By now, everyone knows the watchwords for 2020: “new normal,” “virtual world,” “in these challenging times,” etc. So I don’t think I need to set the stage anymore. Suffice it to say, everything has changed, and you all know that.

But what we need to break away from is the thinking that this enormous disruption is cause for throwing our carefully laid plans for next year out the window.

Granted, many of our goals and strategies need to be adapted, revised, or even scratched off the list entirely (for now.) Many of our best tactics from the “good old days” are a poor fit for this new era of restrictions and caution.

But—that doesn’t mean your overarching reason for being has necessarily changed. You’re still in the same business, even though it may look different. So how do you jam your square plans into this newly rounded hole?

Start with taking a step back, and looking at your mission and vision. Chances are it’s big picture enough to sustain. Now if you own a chain of salad bar restaurants, there may be some significant changes in order. However, you can still sell salads—pivot accordingly, stay true to your mission, but don’t be afraid to overhaul your delivery system.

Look at your market. Have new laws and restrictions constrained your customers’ abilities to do business with you? Can you find a work-around? Or do you need to create a wider market, a broader customer base, or new geographic parameters? You not only need to fish wherever the fish are, but also make sure they can still find your bait.

Think about your S.W.O.T., but with a 2020 twist. For example, if one of your chief strengths has always been face-to-face customer service, this new “Age of the Facemask” may present some challenges. Optimize your technology to create that same experience in the virtual world.

Are there new opportunities that align with the behavioral changes forced upon us? If your business model has been one built around remote client services, you may not miss a beat, but you also may be in a position to grow even more—explore new ways to make your brand even more trusted in these tricky times.

If anything, the pandemic has exposed many weaknesses that some organizations have limped along with for years. These new environmental challenges have laid them bare, and it’s time to address them.

And finally, threats to your traditional ways of doing business, especially in a volatile and hamstrung economy, may be dimming that light at the end of your tunnel. Be realistic in your assessments, and come with a Plan B, C, and D.

What’s your company’s Technical Quotient? This new age has made us more technology-dependent than ever before. Whether it’s teaching your veteran sales pros to effectively navigate Zoom, or reinventing your entire CRM, you need your TQ front and center in all of your planning and positioned to keep moving forward.  Bolstering your IT staff or investing in new training could be a very wise move.

And finally, keep an eye on those factors beyond your control. I’m not suggesting you pick up a Magic 8-Ball or start reading tea leaves, but you need to harness your imagination and play an occasional game of “what if?”

Nobody could have predicted the life-changing events of 2020 a few years ago. But you don’t have to Google too deeply to find old predictions of some of what’s actually happened. I’m not saying have to build your entire planning effort around disaster preparedness—but it needs to be a part of the game plan. Forecasting and trend analysis should be a part of all strategy sessions, with a solid helping of imagining the unexpected.

So not only is planning still important, it’s the most important item in your manager’s toolbox. Next month, we’ll continue the discussion and talk about how data enters the picture—and how your metrics in this brave new world may need to change.

Until then, here’s a present from us to you—a quick and easy hands-on planning tool for those of you who are “too busy to plan.”

GROW BIG OR GO HOME!

Posted by Editorial Staff

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