planning & pandemics: WHAT IFS & NO REGRETS
One of my favourite clients raised a Series A round this week. In the last year I helped them out with what I call "just enough strategy" so as a tribute to that I thought I'd write about strategic planning.
Those who fail to plan plan to fail. Right ? And then there's Corona.
As they say in Yiddish "Der mentsh trakht un Got lakht" which translates roughly as
Man proposes, God disposes.
Strategic planning is not exactly considered woke. And how do you do strategy right now as we move through Covid 19 when everything is up in the air?
Uncertainty is often dealt with in strategic planning with superficial risk analysis - maybe there's a list of assumptions somewhere in the plan which often no one questions.
But when everything is unclear you have to think about uncertainty in a more structured way.
1. Use WHAT IF questions for developing different views of your future.
Here are some examples:
Tourism Industry Operator:
What If tourism does not pick up until early 2021. Which channels will you use to sell?
Professional Services e.g Design Consultancy:
What If people continue to work from home. How will you manage your real estate?
Construction Industry Player :
What If infrastructure projects in the U.S are slow to pick up in the next two years?
This way you get different scenarios for your business.
3. NO REGRETS MOVES
Work out which moves would make sense across most of the different scenarios of the future.
Mckinsey calls these no-regret moves which are easier to take.
3. LOOK FOR SCENARIO SIGNALS
So far you have come up with a bunch of scenarios and the moves which need be taken in that scenario.
You also need to set out the signals for when your organisation should begin to act on that move. Identifying the signals means that you can act at the right time. The pandemic means that things change fast but if you've thought through some of the possibilities & your responses beforehand you'll be in better shape.
As an example, the tourism operator may say that a signal for developing new sales channels is if sales for Spring 2021 by direct booking fall below x in October 2020.
Plans are worthless but planning is everything. That thought is attributed to Eisenhower, Churchill, Anonymous and probably anyone who has ever looked at a Strategic Plan six months after it was written.
The truth is that no strategic plan should ever be written in stone - even in less volatile times. But it's the planning process where you have to think through different scenarios which is the invaluable part.
Every organisation needs to know where it's going before it starts the journey. That's true from this week's Round A success client to the largest global giant.
Those that fail to do planning, plan to fail.
It has less of a ring to it but it's definitely nearer the mark.