As we move into the final quarter of 2020, we’re also faced with the task of forward planning for the coming year. The well-considered three-year plans many constructed in the previous year or two are suddenly looking very suspect, given the changes in societies and economies COVID-19 has wrought.

What is a leader to do? I have three ideas that may help you.

Consider likely scenarios

Deloitte recently published an article entitled “COVID-19 Economic cases: Scenarios for business leaders,” offering three scenarios for the world’s economies and societies, ranging in impact from mild to severe. Using these as guide rails for planning can force one to challenge one’s own assumptions, helping to guard against myopia about which the article warns.

Know empirically where your own organisation stands

Are your leaders capable of leading their own teams at this moment and successfully implementing needed changes? Are your top employees more likely to leave than stay? Is the company aligned, or do silos threaten to fracture the strategy?

Rather than guessing at the state of your organisation and your employees’ mindsets, instead, use a comprehensive employee engagement survey to capture the empirical data. By doing so, you’ll be able to spot issues before they become problems and understand which areas of the organisation are performing well, and which need some additional attention.

Create a new lens for decision making

We can all agree these are extraordinary times, and we’ve been writing for months about the new remit for leaders. Simply put, a raft of new exogenous forces has made the world even more unpredictable and requires us to take a different approach to make decisions.

I found this article from the MIT Technology Review to be especially succinct in describing the actions one can take to improve decision-making during this challenging time. Key points include:

  • Consider the various futures you may face (hence, the Deloitte item above)
  • Identify the implications those futures pose
  • Make your assumptions explicit, and examine their validity.

The last is a vitally important point.

“Our planning assumptions are often implicit, which makes it hard to examine or challenge them. Make them explicit by writing them down, and then sort your assumptions into three categories: those that are credible and should guide your planning; those that should be researched further; and those that are unlikely to become reality.”

Assumptions are, at best, informed guesses. To the author’s list above I would add the imperative to seek and acquire any data you can that is timely and current and can help inform your planning. This will mean challenging your own leaders to look deeper into their own organisations.

Where can you glean an understanding of changes in the sentiments and behaviors of your employees, customers, and prospects? That is the question to pose to your team. The employee engagement survey is one such source. Mining your CRM for changes in customer sentiment and website analytics for shifts in visitor behavior and searches can be similarly revealing.

As I’ve said previously, in a post-COVID world, the ability to move from transactional to transformational leadership will be the key differentiator between businesses that thrive, and those that fail. If your teams have not yet moved into the “transformational” phase, the time is nigh as 2021 plans are formed.

Webinar: A Crystal Ball. for 2021 Planning

Join Engagement Multiplier founder Stefan Wissenbach for a discussion of how to acquire and use employee data to refine forward planning for the coming year in our latest webinar below.