You're No Nostradamus (And Neither Am I)!



By Jennifer E. Goldman, President Resonance, LLC 

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that even the best of plans can go up in flames in an instant. Rewind the calendar to 2019 and even at that point I was counseling my clients to NOT ask me to create a five-year strategic plan for them. Many didn’t understand. Mostly because many consultants were all gung-ho about making five-year plans. I am an advocate of planning ahead and having a long-term plan, but I’m a bigger advocate of being flexible, of understanding that “we plan, God laughs”. What I tell people is that it’s great to have long-term goals and strategies for getting from where you are to where you want to be, but when you put it all in writing too many people chain themselves to the plan; believing that there’s only ONE way to get from A to B, or that point B is the only destination to work toward.

But what if you fall behind? What if you forge further ahead than expected? What if your goals change? What if...pandemic?! Without the ability to be flexible or to accept the fact that sometimes you have to throw out the plan and start from scratch, then you are blind to new possibilities, alternate opportunities, and innovative solutions.

No one knows what the world will look like in five years. Think about it. Look at everything that’s come about between 2016 and now. Five years ago we had yet to see the election and the Trump administration, the #metoo movement took place in that time, diversity, equity and inclusion are the new corporate culture buzzwords, on-demand television has beat out network/cable TV, we have “impossible” and “beyond” burgers now. And that’s not even mentioning the trends that have emerged due to the pandemic. Who could have predicted a mass exodus from inner cities? That massive office buildings would be virtual ghost towns? That families would be home 24/7 working, schooling, living and sleeping in a togetherness we’ve not seen previously?

And where will we be in 2026? God only knows. Literally. I sure don’t. I know where I’d like to be. I have a picture of what I’d like my life and career to be at that point, but I know I’m best served by focusing on where I am right now and how I’m going to get to where I want to be by the end of 2021. (Or, heck, by the end of spring!)

It doesn’t mean that I’m not making any long-term plans. It means that my long-term plans are loose, flexible and, frankly, replaceable.

Here is what I believe in regarding Strategic Planning:
  • Every Strategic Planning session should begin with a review of the organization’s Vision and Mission statements; freshen it up every so often.
  • Create goals that your leadership team feel very strongly about: these should be the things that NEED to be accomplished; items that feel essential for your organization.
  • Identify strategies for reaching those goals, then identify alternate strategies so that there are contingencies and to indicate a certain level of flexibility.
  • Schedule a review of the Strategic Plan with your leadership team at least annually and make amendments as needed.
  • Define benchmarks and metrics for each step of your plan to make it easier to know if your plan is truly working for your organization or not.
  • Have an outside source help you create the plan, keep you accountable, and analyze the progress being made.

Because, ultimately, here’s what I’ve learned about the process:
  • Strategic Planning sessions are great team-bonding exercises.
  • Leadership teams that get to define/re-define an organization’s vision and mission have much more enthusiasm and is better equipped to communicate and advocate for the organization.
  • Breaking up plans into much smaller chunks allows the team to feel more successful more immediately.
  • Feeling successful in the short-term, revives enthusiasm for tackling the next step.
  • If it isn’t working, stop spending time on why and move on to alternate methods.
  • When organizations hire me, what they’re really saying is “We really want to get to know each other better, be on the same page, and be excited about what we’re doing again.”

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