So we’re all headed into the second month of 2021, and if you’re like me, you probably feel like you’re already behind. This post is an example — I was supposed to write it in early January but I set it aside to work through with a sudden rush of projects.
I always look forward to strategic planning, but as I talk to new clients, I’m surprised how many view it as a kind of “one size fits all” exercise. They often ask me to conduct a SWOT analysis or facilitate a workshop about a vision statement, because, well, that’s just what’s done.
But is it what they need? A strategy that is relevant and purposeful strategy will help you overcome the obstacles that block a better future for your organization and your team. But simply doing what everyone else is doing doesn’t guarantee your strategy will be relevant and purposeful.
“There is no one (strategic) approach that works for everyone, but there is a best approach for your specific context.” That’s Martin Reeves, the author of a cleverly named article (and book) called Your Strategy Needs A Strategy. Reeves believes your environment should influence your strategic approach. If things are stable, you can think more long term, but if they’re not, you need more responsive planning for the short term. Your environment also influences when and how often you check in on your strategy.
So if you’re about to create or revise your strategy, you don’t just settle for a canned approach. Consider whether your situation is fluid or stable, and explore:
In normal times, your priorities should be driven by your mission and vision, but COVID-19 means that most of us are coping with a pretty fluid environment right now.
So is it time to grit your teeth, show some discipline and double down on your strategic plan? Maybe not. Try to keep the big picture in mind, but recognize that the near term approach may have to be different; and that there you may have to revisit more frequently.
It might be helpful to consider “mini-strategies” — smaller, more agile plans that help you address urgent priorities while still considering your mission and vision. Rather than discard your strategic plan, create simple, agile interim plans that chart a detour around your near term obstacles.
Five mini-strategies for 2021
Here are five ideas for mini-strategies that might be important for you in 2021.
Reconnection: If you and your colleagues are working remotely, it may be important to help to help everyone reconnect. This reconnection strategy might be something your human resources team creates to help maintain your team’s morale and productivity.
Recovery: You might be lucky enough to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but still have some challenges ahead. Your executive leadership team may need to create a recovery strategy to help your organization regain its financial position prior to the pandemic. If your organization is about people helping people, you might need to create a plan to overcome employee burnout.
Reinvention: You may also be lucky enough to discern some unique opportunities. If you decide to reinvent your products, services or your entire organization, your product management or customer service teams may need a strategy to make it happen.
Restructuring: If you’re struggling to secure the income and resources you need to continue your operations, your imperative is surviving until the effects of the pandemic retreat. Having some type of financial strategy will make this critical work less stressful and more effective.
Wrapping up: Sadly, your organization may be at the point where you need to wrap things up. Having a strategy to wrap-up operations is an important tool for addressing your commitments and securing the future of your team.
But creating strategy takes too much time and makes too little impact …
I agree. This isn’t the time for “big strategy.” When the situation is uncertain and things change quickly, we need to embrace processes that are more agile and impactful. That’s what I’m going to talk about in my next post.
What other mini-strategies are you creating for 2021? Share your ideas in the comments.
Parsons Dialogue is based in Calgary, Canada, serving clients across North America. We design and facilitate strategic processes that help teams collaborate with clarity and confidence.