Three Keys to Business Planning in Uncertain Times

November 4, 2020

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Three Keys to Business Planning in Uncertain Times

Image Credit: Depositphotos


It would be an understatement to say that 2020 has been a year of change. More accurately, it has been a year of unprecedented change – and not localized, but worldwide. The grand-scale plans businesses and teams made in January pretty much went out the window in the spring, leaving business leaders to scramble and create solutions to issues never faced before.

And yet, here we are at that time of year, when planning for the new year normally occurs. If you feel like you are looking at a blank slate, you are not alone. Realistically, the only thing you can plan for is uncertainty.

How do you plan for uncertainty?

1. Embrace it.

We like to think that plans are certainties – that we set goals, and they happen. It is seldom a straight trajectory. There will always be uncertainties. If you embrace the idea, you will not be shocked when changes happen. Instead, you will be free to think creatively because you anticipated they would come.

This will come easily for some team members, who have a natural affinity for change and new ideas; but it is also important for the more structured team members to embrace change, because doing so in advance gives them time to formulate scenarios for those changes and develop anticipatory solutions.

2. Pace it.

Gone are the days of planning for one year, five years, and ten years to any level of detail. While it is good to have those long-range goals in general, the more detailed planning should begin at the quarterly level. Given the speed of business and technology, this is a more reasonable timeframe to actually lay out a plan that is executable and agile. This is also an ideal timeline for teams to accomplish a strong sprint for a specific goal – enough time to do it well; but not so long that they lose interest.

Once the 90-day plan is done, breaking it down into monthly and weekly goals will ensure the timeline is properly addressed. And milestones should be established as a measurement of incremental success.

This level of planning will be easy for some team members. It is in their strengths zone. For others, it will be a challenge. But it is essential for both ideators and planners to come together for this type of planning, as it ensures fresh, new ideas are actually channeled into actionable results.

3. Face it.

Planning is important, even in midst of change. While the end result may differ from the original plan, it does provide a baseline for goals. We have seen this in 2020, where business leaders stayed true to their goals but adjusted with a great deal of innovation in how they got there. From restaurants offering new ways to serve, to factories retooling to manufacture different products, companies have found ways to do what they do and meet income objectives. This has often been done in different ways than they anticipated way back in January before the world changed.

Planning with measurable results is key. What specifically can you do to increase sales, decrease expenses, expand your customer base, or increase customer retention? Know that the means may change, but the measurables can still be attained if you have a plan as your baseline.

A new year is on the horizon. We do not know what is ahead. And while this seems to be different, it is the same. We never know what is ahead. We can only anticipate and plan. But we should plan. Planning is what brings priorities back into order.

Are you working with your team to plan with these in mind?

  • Set certain plans with uncertainty in mind – build in flexibility.
  • Set incremental plans with longer range in mind – build in structure.
  • Set specific plans with measurable results – build in benchmarks.

For more resources on how you can increase communication, collaboration, and leadership across your organization, click here to learn about the Communication Impact Report and Workshop for leaders and their teams.

As the CEO of Strength Leader Development, Deb Ingino is a highly sought-after international executive mentor, coach, trainer, and speaker. Deb is well versed in global business operations and helps business leaders and their teams to discover and leverage their strengths, so they can create highly collaborative teams that deliver great results. With a refreshingly direct style, and using the Maxwell Method, Deb helps leaders and teams to deliver profitable results. Connect with Deb to learn more about her mentorship and coaching programs to equip you with advanced strategies to elevate your results.