Navigating through Uncertainty

business maze

business mazeOver the weekend, I completed some pre-Summer cleaning in my office. This has become a bit of a coping technique for me to get through the past few volatile months. While unemployment rises and the economy dips, I can still maintain a degree of control through organizing my workspace so that I don’t add to the mental clutter. In the process of organizing old documents, I came across my 2020 Strategic Plan. Instead of tossing it in the shredder, I took some time to reflect on what a wild few months it has been.

Like any good strategic plan, there were calculated assumptions made along with contingency plans to activate if results were outside of the expected range. What we did not expect is needing a contingency plan for the whole country shutting down at once. While the original 2020 Strategic Plan is now basically a souvenir for an extraordinary year, version 2.0 of the plan is where we should focus our attention.

When the whole world turned upside down, what happened next? How did you pivot? There are some truly extraordinary examples of organizations that abandoned the comfort zone and pursued innovative short-term stop-gaps during the shutdown. US automakers stopped producing cars and started manufacturing ventilators. Clothing manufacturers turned excess inventory into cloth masks (both for sale and as donations to healthcare workers). Small hobby shops used their 3D printers to mass-produce face shields and plastic “ear savers” that protect the ears of healthcare workers who were wearing masks for long hours. Restaurants used their kitchens to feed both their own workers and essential workers until they could support curbside pick-up. Alcohol-producers even released their own hand sanitizers.

In each case, instead of holding onto the original plan and hoping the world would return to normal quickly, they adjusted their plans to fit new opportunities. They took their greatest skill/asset and leveraged it to fit a new need. They acted quickly, and pragmatically to create a short-term plan that could sustain their business through the bleakest days. In addition to identifying new, creative revenue streams, they were able to give focus, direction, and hope to their employees. At a time when most people were experiencing debilitating emotions, they were able to paint a new picture for the future and engage others in that vision.

In times of uncertainty, the leaders who can pivot creatively and act decisively separate themselves from those who are more risk-averse and analytical. Whether your business needs to pivot, change lanes, or is engaged in a bit of a tango, invest some energy in envisioning a Strategy 2.0 for the year.