This is a photo of a man looking at a planning board.

It’s been a little over two months since most of us began sheltering in place and working from home. During that time, we’ve all seen plenty of ads about “these unprecedented times” and read multiple articles about “the new normal.” But what if there is no “new normal”? What if instead, there’s a “next normal” and then a “next normal” after that? A survey of CFOs back in March revealed that most believe it will take a minimum of six months after business resumes for there to be any sort of normalcy. The timeline could be much longer for nonprofits and smaller organizations. That type of on-going change requires flexibility. While strategic plans are usually written to cover a period of three years or more, we think “these unprecedented times” call for a different kind of strategic plan, one that works with the current crisis, but is flexible for the long term.

How do you create this flexible strategic plan? The process can be divided into three stages.

Stage 1: Review, Anticipate, Protect

Review and analyze any existing data and information you have that helps identify the strengths, needs, and anticipated challenges of your organization.

Identify your “what if” scenarios, or potential situations and the preferred solutions to include in your plan. Some possible questions to ask: What happens if your office has to remain closed for a full year? Could some of the staff come back to the office? What happens if your funding is reduced? Here you may consider managing your cash flow and streamlining your operations to make sure you will survive anticipated challenges.

Stage 2: Create Adaptable Strategies for Now and for Later  

Create viable strategies to move the organization forward.  Strategies should remain focused on your mission and values, but integrate some of the anticipated crisis or “what if” scenarios, allowing your organization to adapt to a changing environment. It’s important to build in reflection points, that is, events or changes that could trigger you to shift your strategy based on changes in the environment, while still addressing the mission.

Stage 3: Identify Indicators of Success, and an Implementation Plan

Identify success measures such as the SMART Goals or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to help you track progress toward the goals you identified in your strategic plan and hold yourself accountable. Then, make your sure plan is something you can practically implement. A good strategic plan includes resources planning—meaning you have the money, talent, and resources to execute your priorities so you can realize your strategies. You may need to clearly state or adjust your priorities to make sure you can realize your top goals. If your strategic plan isn’t turned into something actionable and measurable, it will probably sit on a shelf.

Finally, while employees and key stakeholders should be part of any strategic planning process, you will also need to create an internal communications plan to ensure that any changes are communicated, as well as a plan for communicating changes that arise suddenly.

In today’s unusual environment, organizations must conduct ongoing strategic planning to remain flexible in the midst of uncontrollable forces. If you’d like to have a conversation about your organization’s strategic plan, please fill out our contact form to request a free one-hour meeting with one of our consultants. If you’d like to learn more about strategic planning, consider downloading our step-by-step guide to strategic planning.