Planning during disruption. It’s possible.

Are you a leader grappling with disruptions from Covid-19? Asking yourself questions like how the post-Covid-19 world will impact your business? The shifts you need to make to ensure your sustainability. The opportunities you can tap on.

You are probably facing more questions than answers during these unprecedented times. Adding to this is the inability to physically get together with your teams to brainstorm ideas – and the fatigue caused by video calls all day.

In a world that seems to have changed overnight, maybe the starting point is for us to acknowledge that we are not in control of our future. While strategy planning is important to help us learn and question our assumptions, the process of our strategy planning needs to help us build resilience and flexibility – rather than list steps to get to a desired future.

Thus, the way that we plan and think about strategies has to shift. There are 3 shifts we need:

  1. Focus on building teams, not strategies. I would go so far as to say that building teams is perhaps more challenging than creating strategies. But in an environment of constant change and surprises, the teams that have a strong sense of purpose and psychological safety are more likely to respond. Help teams by creating enabling structures such as team project deliverables, common spaces to meet or experiences which encourage relationships to be built. Actions you can take: With limited physical connections at the moment, common spaces could be weekly check-ins or Bring-Your-Own-Coffee video calls. Where possible, ask for volunteers when starting new projects rather than assigning.
  2. Build and work towards an intent rather than strategies. An intent could be “we want to be a force for good for the local community” while a strategy would detail how to achieve that intent – for example working with the local charities to organize fund-raising events. The intent can anchor the direction for people to work towards even as the specific strategies may change. Having clarity on your intent during these uncertain times can help to pivot on strategies quickly. Actions you can take: On one page, list the intentions you have for your organization/department/team. Circulate it among your team and ask for feedback.
  3. Seek questions rather than answers. Questions like “what would make this possible” and “what needs to happen next” are timeless and encourage us to keep pushing our boundaries and imagination. Stick up timeless questions on walls or places where people can see them easily as a reminder that the environment is constantly changing but we have the resources within us to respond. This will mean that we need to get comfortable not knowing answers and trusting that the next steps will emerge as we keep our attention on the intent and questions. Actions you can take:  Ask yourself a “timeless” question every day and jot down your response. Ask your team these questions and encourage them to generate questions regularly.

What other shifts do you feel are needed in the way we plan for the future?