A good time to plan the future

As organizations wait for restrictions to be lifted, it’s an opportunity to think, hope and imagine

Gerri KingDuring these tumultuous times, many leaders have put planning for the future on hold instead of using the time to develop a strategic plan that explores options about their future ideal organizational model.

They’ve chosen to stay the course, because right now it seems like wishful thinking to consider future action. But staying the course is an action. There’s no such thing as “no decision.” No decision is a decision to remain the same. It’s like treading water, expending effort that maintains present status but does not make progress toward a goal.

Being too cautious may risk not being ready to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves in the future, so let’s look at this from a different perspective: we’ve been presented with the gift of time that allows us to fantasize about the future without having to make immediate commitments.

For companies and nonprofits waiting for restrictions to be safely lifted, it’s an opportunity to think, ponder, wonder, hope and imagine.

It is true that creating a strategic plan is a hopeful exercise. Planning ahead and daring to dream does mean risking disappointment – but not dreaming assures it. It risks missing opportunities that might present themselves and/or making decisions based on the present without taking future possibilities into account.

If you can stand the disappointment of not getting all that you want, then plan for the ideal, because you’ll likely get much more than you anticipated. Might you need alternative action if unanticipated results require it? Of course, but that would be true even if you didn’t have a plan in place.

Strategic planning is a change initiative, so it’s not always a linear process, and it can be frustrating and difficult. Even positive change is stressful because with every gain there is a loss that requires giving up the familiar and heading toward the unknown.

And that’s exactly what’s happening. We‘re heading toward unfamiliar territory, and now, while we have the time, it’s a perfect opportunity to design a strategic process to confirm or reassess your mission and vision statements, business definitions, values commitments, internal and external customer service approaches, and underlying philosophy.

Now that online meetings are the new norm, it’s easier than ever for the leadership team to include representatives from every level of the organization in this process. The people who do the job every day know how to solve the problems, so getting their input and utilizing their expertise will provide much needed information while letting them know they’re valued.

The world has slowed down, so now is the perfect time to pay attention to potential issues and fix them, and to meet the following criteria for implementing a successful strategic plan to which leadership, boards and employees can commit:

• Turning strategic intentions into measurable action steps.

• Realigning the organization with new or existing objectives.

• Encouraging accountability, without blame or punitive response.

• Inviting employee input.

• Exploring how to fix core processes and systems.

• Identifying future skills training.

• Deciding how to manage the present while anticipating the future.

Additional positive benefits of a successful plan include the coalescing of teams, cross-functional communication, and a generally happier workforce that feels included and appreciated.

Finally, developing a strategic plan means that you will have a well-thought-out agenda for a successful future starting on the day you get back to normal.

Since we will all be playing catch-up when things start humming again, let’s take this time now to dream, imagine and design the future, where specifics may change, but your culture and philosophy will be in place, helping you to exhibit who you are and what you want to achieve.

Gerri King, a social psychologist and organizational consultant, is president of Human Dynamics Associates in Concord.

Categories: Business Advice