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Tactical planning during uncertain times

Tactical planning in uncertain times: Questions to ask

As the COVID-19 public health crisis continues to dominate the landscape, the struggles businesses face to adapt, strive and thrive remain a real challenge. In 2020, we have witnessed businesses and educational institutions pivot and scramble to adjust — which makes planning for the future even more difficult.

As you look to 2021, the tactical portion of your strategic plan may be in flux. Pre-pandemic, your team invested countless hours establishing tactics to bring goals to life —and events beyond your control threatened to derail the whole project.

But consider a possible silver lining: This may be a unique opportunity to push past your comfort zone and think creatively to bring about the vision of your company in a new way. Especially for organizations that are more risk averse, this could be a rare season to get rapid traction on an idea and apply it without jumping through countless hoops.

Here are some questions to ask as your team maps out its tactical roadmap for the year ahead.

How does our short-term vision need to change?

Before your team addresses tactics, it’s smart to revisit the short-term strategic plan. How does your vision need to adapt or transform in light of the new landscape? Reexamining your short-term vision helps clarify what your organization needs to do next. Are the vision and goals still relevant? Does the short-term strategy still align with your organization’s mission and goals?

Consider not only the goals, but the timeline too. For example, if your business was planning on an expansion in the first quarter of 2021, does it make sense to pivot your strategy for implementation later in the year? Or, on the other hand, should the timeline stay the same but with a different approach? Does it make more sense for the company to purchase existing real estate or invest in new construction?

How can we think differently to execute the plan?

Think outside the current parameters of your business and brand. If one revenue stream is blocked, are there new revenue streams you could create to achieve growth goals? Could you shift business emphasis and investment to a different service or product?

What about changing how your core service is delivered? Could you create a sister brand or an offshoot of your current offerings? Approaching this challenge with a creative and change-driven mindset can help you uncover the tactics your company needs for the next season.

Where can we improvise, adapt, hypothesize and resist over planning?

Pivot, pivot, pivot. With your team, consider alternative and creative ways to remain in the game. Where your company typically stalls over ensuring every perfect step, how can you resist the tendency to over-plan and instead make space for hypotheses?

Consider spaces you can tap into rapidly, and where you can conduct quick due diligence and take a page from the Agile playbook. What could it look like if you prepared for failure and tried something else quickly? Where can you go live, test, update and then go live again?

How can we engage in scenario planning, and what should we start, stop or continue?

As you and your team evaluate long-term strategic goals, and the tactical plans to execute, it can be helpful to complete scenario planning exercises. Scenario planning maps out your organization’s response. “If X happens, then we respond with Y.” You might prep a plan for how your company will react if the pandemic stretches on for another year — or, on the upside, if conditions improve.

Some other valuable questions to consider: What should we start? What should we stop? And what should we continue? This Start/Stop/Continue Analysis sets the stage for your company’s next tactical move.

Times of crisis and uncertainty inspire some of the best innovative and creative ideas. This can be a fun and creative team exercise that can uncover insights you may not have previously considered — and drive forward thinking.

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