“For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” - African proverb
The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly identified a significant gap in management across all sectors; it has revealed that we are far from our ideal standards of planning.
As organizations, we have a set of business processes or routines that we follow year after year. Many of these simply take the previous year’s results and add incremental goals for the next year, which depends on growth objectives and board-level directives and ambitions.
Management is greatly focused on growth but lacks focus on future thinking, particularly crisis management. Firms lack the necessary skills to run the organization in the event something unexpected happens, which may very well threaten the organization’s well-being.
This uncertainty has led to a discussion amongst business leaders about planning for events like this pandemic; the resilience during and after; and the relationship between both planning and resilience.
Crises often lead to diversions from original plans, and create more pressure on senior management. To strengthen resilience and improve the likelihood of success, a clear plan should be in place to follow, irrespective of the situation the firm finds itself facing—whether a pandemic or a market disruption.
While planning is, perhaps, second-nature to humans, the more important question is: Do we plan correctly?
One of the analogies recommended to ensure that planning is simple and understood, is the “GPS analogy”, which clearly defines the three components of planning as:
Going to? - Where do we need to be?
Positioned where? - Where are we?
Search options - What options do we have to get there?
Going to? Where do we need to be? Every good plan starts with the endpoint: - Where we need to be? - What we want to achieve? - What is our dream? Simply stated, we need to clearly articulate our vision. Vision is The dream of where we need to be. Knowing what you want to achieve, seeing that end-result, and visualizing what it looks like, is essential for success. One of the most powerful tools is to clearly detail it (i.e. write it down) where it can be seen, discussed, and ultimately realized. By visualizing the dream, it becomes part of your personal motivation, and attracts the positive result you are seeking.
Positioned where? Where are we now? To execute this vision, we need to have a clear perception and knowledge of our current state and position. - Where are we? - What is our position? - What is the cause for the current situation? - What happened? Why are we in this situation? Are we aware about the history and background? It is critical to understand what our strengths are. What did not go as planned, and what could have been done to rectify the situation. It is also important to keep track of the impact of the results in order to build on them. This may be accomplished with a thorough analysis of successes, challenges and results.
Search options - What options do we have to get there? When we know where we are now, and where we want to be, the third stage of planning is to bridge the gap. The most efficient way is by determining the options available and formulating a strategy to achieve it.
We need to determine and develop a strategic road map to provide the direction and maintain a forward focus. This strategy is a series of measurable actions designed to close the gap and are subject to change depending on the circumstances.
Building the necessary strategy should recognize the following key points:
Risk for each option, understanding or awareness of the risks/ issues that could stop you from performing the required task.
Key success factors for each option.
The human capital needed, roles and responsibilities, based on the actions needed to execute the goal.
Key performance indicators (KPI), to determine the progress.
Tools and support needed to deliver the plan.
In times of uncertainty, it is clarity of purpose and vision, provided through the right plan, that will allow us to face uncertainties and steer in the right direction—for success.
Like any journey, this road map to success should be communicated in such a way that every person in the organization knows the plan; how it is actioned; and what it will ultimately achieve. These components can be brought together to create a common mission statement to explain its purpose, focus and vision for success.