As January comes to a close, many business owners may shrug and assume they’ve missed their opportunity to plan for the coming year. 2020 derailed many of our goals and expectations, so it’s not a surprise if you kept putting off your strategic planning through the end of the year. Now, one month into 2021, it may feel too late to put a plan in place. If last year was any indication, you might be better off just winging it this year—right?
It’s never too late to create a strategic plan to guide your business through the year. Yes, plans may change, but a good strategic plan will anticipate the expected and adapt to the unexpected. We can plan smarter and stronger for a new year for your business.
2021 Is Here, But Planning Has Just Begun
The new year is a convenient and appropriate time to reassess a business and strategize. However, strategic planning can be done at any time. Annual planning sessions may create a nice rhythm to strategic planning, but the planning itself is more important than the timing.
The best time to start planning is today. It’s a cliche because it’s the truth.
Freedom Within a Framework
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that dates on the calendar can all begin to feel the same unless they’re designated with meaning. For many businesses last year, Fridays started feeling just like Mondays, and January 1, 2021 felt just like April 1, 2020. The timelessness of 2020 felt disorienting to many, but I’d encourage you to look for opportunity in the face of new realities.
Never got around to that strategic planning meeting in the fourth quarter? No worries! Start planning today.
Worried about wasting time and energy on a plan that could be irrelevant in a month due to an ever-changing pandemic? That’s okay! You can make plans that leave room for uncertainty.
Think of your strategic plan less like a strict rulebook and more like a framework. There’s freedom within that framework for change, adaptation, and growth.
Strategic planning isn’t going to give you every answer to a year’s worth of new challenges and problems. It will, however, shift your mindset from the daily grind of your work to a wider view of your company’s mission, vision, objectives, and performance.
Strategic Planning Is Always Changing
Success is a moving target. We’re constantly learning and being provided with new information and circumstances. Many of us experienced for the first time last year that anything can change, and change can happen quickly—even overnight.
So, if that’s true, why create a strategic plan? Why not make decisions in the ever-changing moment and see how it goes?
Yes, the world is constantly changing, but strategic planning is changing with it. A strategic plan isn’t just a checklist of hopes and dreams for your organization—it’s a change in mindset. Strategic planning is a way of thinking and organizing that improves your business development over time.
Time to Plan Your 2021 Business Goals
It’s hard to improve without planning ahead. There’s a reason nearly 3 in 4 American adults set New Year’s resolutions this year. That’s a 15% jump after a year of deferred dreams, paused plans, and uncertainty in everyday life. Even after everything 2020 threw at us, we still know that our only guarantee of a better 2021 is to make new goals and plans.
Plan for Planning
If you’re wondering how to create a strategic plan for your business, embrace this simple principle: plan for planning.
Strategic planning is a commitment. You can’t just write down your plan the first week of January and “set it and forget it.” To be successful, you’ll need to plan to make planning a part of your long-term business operations. Business planning becomes a way of thinking and working, not just an item to check off your to-do list.
The good news is that planning takes a relatively short while. Executing and working a plan takes much longer. That’s why it’s so important to get planning done now instead of continuing to put it off until a magic date on the calendar.
Do you want to be where you are now at the end of 2021? Where do you think you could be in December if you start planning today?
Create a Strategic Plan in Two Days
Your business plan for 2021 can be crafted in as little as two days.
It’s true. Big plans don’t necessarily require big time commitments. What’s required is focus. A week-long strategy session that meanders without purpose is much less valuable than a two-day, proven process that’s focused on results.
There are many systems for strategic planning, but I chose to become a facilitator of StratOp (which uses the Paterson StratOp Process) because of the focus and clarity it provides. Its six-phase structure allows companies to develop a workable, targeted, measurable strategic plan that can be reviewed and renewed each year.
Six Phases of the StratOp Process
- Perspective: Where are we now? Take an honest look at where your company is currently before planning where you want to go.
- Core Plan: Where are we headed? Build a core plan based on the perspective gained in the first phase.
- Action: What’s important now? Focus on the most important initiatives in the next 90 days to create a unified action plan.
- Structure: What form best facilitates this plan? Decide on the best structures and systems for this plan instead of crunching your plan into existing structures that may not offer necessary support.
- Management: How are we doing? Create opportunities for regular feedback as you implement the plan. Often this comes in the form of quarterly strategy reviews.
- Renewal: What needs to change? Each year, review your strategic plan and reset your goals and objectives for the coming year.
New Year, New Business Plan
No one could have planned for everything that 2020 brought us, but we can plan and strategize to be more nimble in times of uncertainty. We can take what we’ve learned this past year to plan and prepare better for 2021. Now is the right time to make strategic planning part of your long-term business processes.