Angela E. White, CFRE, Senior Consultant and CEO, Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates

Whether you are in the middle of your strategic plan, concluding a plan, or need to start one, you may want to consider how you can envision and plan for your new normal.

How has your outlook changed in the past year? We stand by three tactics for strategic planning we suggested early in the pandemic: Build resiliency into your plan, grow your capacity to adapt to new challenges, and expand your capability to keep going in face of adversity.

As we continue to see industry upheaval from a myriad of challenges, we suggest the following approaches to help you make short- and long-term decisions in this environment:

Reimagine your new normal

  1. Acknowledge your current reality. Everyone has a new definition of normal (e.g., learning and working remotely). Use tools that can add data to the discussion and engage your people in a conversation to achieve buy-in:
    • SWOT analysis – Tried and true, this tool looks at your internal strengths and weaknesses and captures your external opportunities and threats. It can be conducted electronically and is useful to discuss the results at an early meeting to kick off planning.
    • Macmillan Matrix – A useful tool to assess your programs or service lines, looking at sacred cows, loss leaders, mission creep, etc. What programs are growing/stagnant? What should we keep, close, or just monitor? Acknowledge where you are with your various programs and move forward from there.
    • PESTEL – Provides a situational examination of your current environment by helping you identify external factors affecting your organization in crucial areas, including political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal.
  2. Rally your team. Change is tough, especially with continued uncertainty. Use your strategic planning process to generate hope and strengthen engagement. It can be a way of building greater collaboration among your team as they help you create a vision for the future.
  3. Create your non-negotiables. What is foundational to your work? What is essential to achieving your mission? What must happen for us to meet the needs of those we serve? Those things may have shifted or changed over the past few tumultuous years. It is worth a conversation to find out.

Evaluate your current strategic plan

Next, consider your current strategic plan through your new normal lens. Keep your non-negotiables and de-prioritize or eliminate any goals, objectives, or initiatives that don’t align. If your plan has been around for a while, these questions may help you rework certain areas.

  1. Is there still a demand for our services as described in the plan? How has it changed?
  2. How have technology and online services impacted the delivery of our services? Can we meet the demand?
  3. Has our supply chain been negatively impacted? How do we bring our services to our clients?
  4. How do we maintain the health and safety of those we serve and of our workforce? How do we meet the changing needs of our workforce?

Create your new strategic plan

To adapt to the realities of your new normal, your new strategic plan must be strategically resilient and financially realistic. Research has found that the two most common obstacles that can derail your strategic plan are being overly optimistic and failing to consider the financial impact of your plan.

Take these steps to help avoid pitfalls as you map out your plan for the future.

  1. Identify the right team. Create a collaborative strategic planning committee or team. Invite a diverse group of both internal and external constituents and balance previous and new team members to take advantage of different experiences and fresh perspectives. Include not only your own internal leadership and staff, but also consider external constituents such as board leadership, experts in your field, key stakeholders, and others. However, try to limit your group to 10 – 15 people to keep the size manageable.
  2. Create multiple planning scenarios. We know the future can change very quickly. Consider potential alternate scenarios to your preferred path that will help you and your team be poised if you need to shift strategies. Create a scenario planning matrix that looks at the key issues you are trying to address, the time horizon, and internal and external factors that may impact your scenarios. Identify benchmarks that indicate you need to take a step back and perhaps pivot in your strategy to one of the alternate scenarios you have identified.
  3. Establish key financial measures of success. Create a financial story as a part of your planning process. This needs to happen AS the plan is being developed, not as an afterthought (or not at all!). The financial measures of success are an important measure to know if your plan is viable or if you need to shift strategy.
  4. Focus on creating new value for your organization. How can you change things up? Think creatively about what you could potentially do—while also working to improve your current offerings. This is an opportunity for big sky thinking to reinvigorate your team to the possibilities of the future.

Strategic planning today needs to be much more nimble. You can’t just set a strategy and check in again in five years. Remember, the best goals remain valid over time AND are flexible enough to adjust to a changing marketplace. Take the time to gather key people to evaluate past planning, refocus, and cast your vision for what will advance your organization in the future.