How to plan for 2021 amid uncertainty

Over the last few weeks many clients have queried whether planning for 2021 is beneficial in our uncertain COVID-19 world. The truth is, even prior to the pandemic, change has been exponential. Planning will enable our businesses as well as our personal lives to maintain direction and stability while also providing contingencies and risk management solutions. Here’s how to approach your planning for 2021.

 

Reflect on the prior year

 

When it comes to planning for the year ahead, the best place to start is to reflect on the previous year. What were your goals? Did you achieve them? What worked? What didn’t work? Why?

 

It’s important to acknowledge what was and wasn’t under your control. We can’t have control or influence over everything - certainly COVID-19 has proven that. While we shouldn’t hide behind excuses or blame external factors for our missteps, we also shouldn’t be hard on ourselves when things have genuinely been out of our control. Be honest with yourself and think about what you have learned from the past year.

 

Consider your vision

 

What’s your vision for the business? What about your personal life? How would you like things to look in 6 months? 12 months? 24 months? Envisaging where the business is at and how your life will look at the end of the planning period will help you craft the right goals and actions and keep you more motivated to reach them.

 

Establish goals

 

Set your goals based on your vision and your current situation. Consider “well-rounded” goals, which address both the business side, as well as your and your employees’ mental, emotional and physical health and wellbeing. Baking the latter into your goals will strengthen the business, enhancing the business’ and employees’ ability to successfully manage through change and uncertainty.

 

Ensure the goals you are setting are SMART goals [1]; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. For example, a restaurant may have pivoted successfully to delivery over the last year. A goal may be to boost delivery by 20 percent over the next 12 months. When it comes to personal goals, a goal may be to attend a yoga class twice a week, every week.

 

When you reflect on the achievability of your goals, start to consider contingencies and risk management solutions in this step of the planning process. This will enhance your ability to manage through potential changes as they arise.

 

Even if your goals don’t seem that exciting, don’t be deterred. Many businesses will be scaling back or resetting and that’s ok. In the current environment we may need to adjust our expectations.

 

After setting the goals, consider how their achievement will make you feel different, and how it will impact you as well as anyone else. You can then reflect on your progress towards this as you go.

 

Create an action plan

 

After you’ve set your goals, think about how you can achieve them. Come up with an action plan which breaks down each goal into smaller, actionable deliverables which are measurable with timeframes and responsibilities. Without viewing your goals this way, they can feel too big or daunting, which can prevent you from achieving them, and sometimes even attempting them. Also ensure your actions are realistic, considering any other commitments you or your staff might already have.

 

Measure progress & remain accountable to your goals

 

The value of having measurable goals and action items is that you can measure your progress in achieving them along the way. If they aren’t measurable, then how will you know if you’ve achieved them? You should be able to measure progress through quantifiable measurements such as a percentage boost in sales for example, or an achievement of a qualification.

 

It’s important you revisit your goals and action items on a regular basis. How regularly should depend on the goals and action items and your preferences.

 

You may find it useful to have your goals and action plan visible every day, on a whiteboard for example or in your mobile phone, rather than just buried in a project plan. This can keep you and your team motivated, inspired and on track.

 

Adapt and pivot as needed

 

If this last year has taught us anything, it's that the only constant is change. It isn’t just pandemics which can create drastic change, there are countless other factors which can create change and uncertainty. That could be anything from competition and industry disruption, to changing consumer preferences or technological innovation. The key is to identify possible changes and prepare to adapt accordingly. The planning process can help you in this regard.

 

This is why every goal you set should have contingencies and risk management solutions built in. This will enable you to pivot and adapt your goals to changing circumstances. For example, for a revenue

goal, consider various scenarios which could cause the business to underperform against your revenue forecast. How could you pivot to adapt to those scenarios?

 

The qualities which enable people to adapt, known as the Adaptability Quotient (AQ) [2], are now considered some of the major defining characteristics of successful leaders. AQ involves leaders being comfortable with change, being able to adapt and pivot, and driving change as a change agent. When organisations are led by leaders with AQ, their chances of success are much higher.

 

Celebrate success

 

Many business owners and business leaders forget to celebrate their successes. This is especially true for personal goals. Have a think ahead of time of how you plan to celebrate the achievement of your goals as this will give you an incentive to work towards and something to look forward to. It can be something as simple as taking the team out for lunch or taking a long weekend. It’s important that we give ourselves a pat on the back for what we’ve achieved. We deserve it!

 

Abilitise can help you with your planning processes through running coaching sessions to help you and your team develop and remain accountable to your goals or running strategic planning sessions with your team. Get in touch to find out more.

 

[1] https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/smart-goals.htm

[2] https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20191106-is-aq-more-important-than-intelligence