How Will You Plan in an Uncertain World?

COVID-19 has created the biggest disruption most people alive will have ever experienced. Some people say, “We’re all in the same boat”, but that’s not true. We’re all in the same storm, but we’re all in different boats, navigating our way through the storm. The pandemic has affected different industries in different ways, and even within an industry, but the one thing that’s certain is we’re facing more uncertainty.

The things you don’t know WILL hurt you!

When it comes to strategic planning in a crisis (and beyond), most organisations go through three stages – crisis, recovery, and growth. Your success depends on how well you plan at each stage.

  1. Crisis: You move into survival mode, and all action is reactive and focussed on immediate needs only. Long-term strategic planning is absent, and that’s exactly the right focus at this time, because you need to react to external circumstances.
  2. Recovery: You can now be more responsive and measured, but because you’re still operating in a volatile environment, it’s tempting to focus only on short-term goals. Many organisations get stuck at this point, lurching from month to month with short-term plans that continually need to be revised or discarded.
  3. Growth: To move from recovery to growth, you need to be proactive and move beyond the limit of what you can predict with certainty. You map out multiple external scenarios, choose the most plausible path, design a strategy to follow that path, but remain flexible enough to switch as circumstances change.

A few organisations take this one step further and progress to a fourth stage:

  1. Disruption: In any environment where everything is shaken loose, a few organisations take the opportunity to be disruptive. These are the iconic businesses in an industry that take the lead and ultimately change their industry.

Are you going to survive and thrive, or will you nose-dive and disappear?

Make no mistake – uncertainty changes everything. Some people become paralysed by fear, others cross their fingers and hope for the best, and others continue in a false sense of security that nothing has changed. But the best people, leaders, teams, and organisations roll up their sleeves and take action.

The most successful organisations proactively plan for growth even in uncertain times.

When you get this right, you’ll be significantly more productive because you and your team understand the risks and opportunities in the future, and you have created an organisation (and culture) that’s positioned to leverage those opportunities to stay ahead of the game.

 

Program Outline

This program helps you and your leadership team understand the external pressures you will face in the future, to help with your medium-term and long-term planning.

Broadly, it involves four modules – Scan, Assess, Choose, and Use – with approximately 1-1.5 hours for each module.

Note: This is only a broad outline of the program, to give you an idea of how it might look. But in practice, EVERY time I run this program, it’s slightly different because we tailor it to your specific organisation, goals, and the roles of the people in the room.

MODULE 1: SCAN

I lead you in conducting an environmental scan to help you identify the external pressures that could affect your industry. I do some of this for you in advance, and then facilitate a discussion where you continue to build on this to scan even wider for key trends, opportunities, and threats.

This is the session where you’re getting the most value from me as a futurist, because I draw from the research I’m constantly doing – from different experts and across many industries. It will broaden your perspective, which is especially important for the rest of the program.

MODULE 2: ASSESS

In this module, the group takes the key future trends identified in the environmental scan and assesses their impact on the short-term, medium-term, and long-term strategy. In other words, this is where you narrow down the trends to those that matter most to you.

This is a very interactive module, which involves a lot of discussion in the group. I guide and facilitate the discussion, but it’s mostly for the participants to apply their expertise and experience.

MODULE 3: CHOOSE

Although you have now identified the key trends, not all of them will have the same impact on your strategy. This will vary, depending on your market position, brand, structure, and even the roles of the people in the group. So, in this module, we take the key future trends from the previous module and work them up into a few (often four) plausible future scenarios.

Again, this is a very interactive session, which usually involves a lot of robust discussion (that’s good!). At the end of this module, the group will have identified clear future scenarios that will feed into your strategic plan.

MODULE 4: USE

Now it’s time to transfer ideas into actions, either to feed into your strategic plan or to guide operations directly. I facilitate this session, where participants discuss the ideas and identify how they will overlay these scenarios into their future.

This is also an interactive module, with a lot of discussion within the participants. But it’s also the session where individual participants create their own strategy for incorporating these scenarios into their individual areas of responsibility.

Program Format

This program works as a stand-alone workshop (either in-person or online), or as an introduction into a more in-depth strategic planning process with your team. If you’re creating your strategic plan, this program will broaden your perspective and help you make better-informed decisions.

We can discuss the best format to suit your needs. For example, here are some of the formats I have used in the past for delivering this program:

  • A one-day  workshop as the first day of a longer senior leadership forum
  • A two-day standalone workshop for senior leaders to help them be more future-ready in their thinking
  • An online program, with each of the modules delivered a few weeks apart, to give people time to reflect and act between each session
  • The first module (environmental scanning) delivered as a conference masterclass

Next Steps

Let’s talk about how you can progress through these levels of strategic planning. To find out more, phone me on 0417 928 278 or e-mail gihan@gihanperera.com.