Change up your planning process
Don’t panic, this isn’t me turning all nostalgic and mushy, this is still a business blog with a real focus. It is, however, a reflection on how I have seen businesses time and time again try to ‘change things up’ whilst using the same processes, approaches to planning, invariably resulting in achieving the same thing. As Einstein quoted “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
It may be the world's biggest understatement when I say life has changed for good since the arrival of COVID-19. It has impacted every country, every business across the world. This has created many new challenges for Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Survival for most being the biggest and most significant challenge. For those who do survive, the future - long term future is going to be a whole lot different.
As a result, many SMEs like me have had to politely put their original 2020 plan aside and begin to put something together that reflects the new world order. What does this look like? The approach used in the past has never had to deal with such a sudden change as we are now facing. I discussed in the previous blog, the need to double plan, having a short-term focus leading into one that is more long-term. This may be the new approach that your business needs.
The outcome is the need to challenge something old - planning. Businesses have done this for a millennium. This is what we have done every year to be successful, to set goals, and then work hard to achieve them. Something new to consider is the emphasis on timeframes. In a post COVID-19 world, a day is now a week; a week is now a month and a month is a year. The rules in which we operate change literally by the day and there is no indication that this will be any different in the foreseeable future. Again, the old approach to planning and implementation will struggle to deal with these variables.
The positive we can take from this situation is that this is a great time to engage in your team. Previously you may have had the time to sit back and reflect yourself the goals and objectives. Then open it up for discussion, get feedback, resulting in a comprehensive plan. This luxury is all but diminished now. The best organisations will capitalise on the collective knowledge of their team. A new approach is the use of LEGO® Serious Play® (LSP). It’s a crazy new world with COVID-19, so why not change the approach to the traditional, typical planning process. You don’t want to sit in a meeting room listening to the words of a few while others sit back disengaged. Or take your time coming up with the objectives only to find that the world has already moved on.
LSP is an awesome methodology that I use to help businesses break this routine and create a new vision by engaging the whole team. What does success look like from everyone’s perspective? How can they collectively add value in achieving that vision? These are all questions that can be explored through the use of LSP. Going even further to define the important ‘must haves’ versus what were the ‘nice to haves’.
Using this time to create super clarity around your purpose - your ‘why’. It may have changed over the past six months, that is ok. With your purpose redefined, what are the goals and objectives to achieve your vision. Be brave with your team, use their experience, knowledge and skills as much as drawing on your own passion. Borrow their enthusiasm and include it into your plan. Once the ‘true north’ has been set by the team, then let them work out the details of the ‘how’, after all that is why you hired them in the first place, right? Organisational success is a team effort. By including them in an active process to achieve this will enhance the likelihood of achieving your goals.
Don’t hold back - blue sky thinking is the aim. With the world basically being tipped on its head, this is the chance to really think differently - as a team. I have seen some awesome responses through LEGO® Serious Play® that wouldn’t have been possible by approaching planning in a traditional manner. By allowing the team to explore different ideas in an innovative way, the opportunities that have resulted far exceeded the expectations of managers and leadership teams.
Take the opportunity to be brave, use the chaos to create something special that is owned by the team, one that is the collective creation. Spend the time to establish clarity on the purpose of your business and how the team can achieve the vision. This is a chance to share the responsibilities of planning, yes as the owner or leader of the business, you may have a deciding vote, but get the support of the wider team.
As a result, you have done something old - planning. But you have the opportunity to do something new - engaging your team. Borrowed their passion, their enthusiasm, their knowledge. Create something blue - big sky thinking that everyone can share, something that they can be excited to be involved with.