As we approach the end of the year, we are all hoping for a more predictable and stable 2021. 2020 has been a nightmare for many businesses — especially those that are not used to dramatic change in a short period of time. While we anticipate the possibility of heading back to some sort of “new normal,” we can’t ignore the uncertainty of the next twelve months.

So where does that leave our Strategic Plans for 2021? Some say we should scrap them all together, and others argue the merits of making a plan, and sticking to it.

At Corporate Path Leadership, we have been working with companies on Interim Strategic Plans — and more importantly — thinking about how to take an agile approach to 2021 with your Strategic Plans so you can be better prepared no matter the outcomes ahead.

Here is our advice for you as you think about implementation of your 2021 plan:

ONE: For each of the core strategies in your plan, think about your quick, on-going measurements for progress.

The Challenge: One of the big misses in a Strategic Plan is knowing how a particular strategy is progressing.

The Agile Solution: Ideally, anyone should be able to look at progress on a strategy at least twice per month. This keeps the team informed on whether or not the strategy is meeting the initial plan, or needs a deviation update. Before you put your Strategic Plan in the “finalize” phase prior to launch, take time to revisit each strategy and decide how you are going to handle these interim measurements, and assign specific people on the team to provide the entire group an update on those bi-weekly pulse checks.

TWO: React quickly to any deviations in the strategy vs. the on-going measurement results.

If you have measurements in place, you are about halfway toward tracking your success. The issue still remains of what you can do — and how quickly you can react — when unexpected differences in performance on any given strategy crop up.

The Challenge: Too often, we see poor results for a given strategy during a post-quarter report-out session. At that point, people comment on why the results aren’t going as expected. But in many cases, it is just too late to course correct, even if a good solution is proposed.

The Agile Solution: Our recommendation is to use the bi-weekly results as a reason to quickly gather and troubleshoot issues, so course-correcting plans can be put in place that same month. By the time you gather to look back at the quarter, you should have had the opportunity to report out on two to three different experiments that you have tested against the original strategy.

THREE: Know when to “cut bait” on a strategy or to ramp up or ramp down on resources to make sure you are investing in the right strategies.

The Challenge: The reality is that not all strategies are destined to succeed. And that’s OK!!

The Agile Solution: We recommend that you proactively review the current Strategic Plan with the entire team at the beginning of January. Set expectations with the team members that you anticipate conditions to impact these strategies, and will shift resources around as needed to make sure that the team as a whole is best focused on successful initiatives. Let them know that no one will be at fault, and it’s OK to stop investing heavily in those items that aren’t working out.

An agile strategic plan will give everyone the opportunity to stop supporting something that just isn’t working in a rapidly changing environment. Don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings if they are heavily tied to a strategy that becomes abandoned after three or four months. Instead, help align that same person to a different strategy that is showing more promising results.

Think of 2021 and this crazy unpredictable world as an opportunity to evolve the team’s approach to strategic planning and motivate team members in a new direction. Next year can be a time to work smarter — and this approach to strategic planning can set that stage for everyone’s success, in 2021 and beyond.

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