In light of yesterday’s article on living a life of no surprises, I received a related question the other day: “What can you do if you are trying to do strategic planning and implementation within an event-driven environment where uncontrollable situations can wreak havoc on the organization’s priorities and focus?”
Here are four steps we recommend for strategic planning when you are trying to anticipate unplanned events and their potential impact.
Step 1 – Anticipate Unplanned Events
An important strategic planning step in this type of environment is to anticipate as many of the potential events as you can. This applies even if you cannot control all of the possible occurrences that could derail the strategic plan’s implementation. We have shared a few Brainzooming strategic thinking exercises previously to help accomplish this exploration including:
The key is being able to efficiently generate as long a list of potential future events as is possible, practical, and addressable.
Step 2 – Identify High-Impact Unplanned Events
How then do you prepare to prioritize and perform strategic planning while recognizing all the potential events you have identified?
You can prioritize the list by having individuals rate each event for its potential maximum magnitude and the probability of each event actually happening. Multiplying the two answers for each possible event provides a quick sense of the potential relative magnitude across all the events.
Step 3 – Plan the First Few Steps
Next, identify the first several tactics you would pursue if each event were to happen. You do not need to outline a complete strategic plan for each event. Instead, concentrate on detailing the first three tactics you would want to have ready to go should the event surface.
Step 4 – Prioritize the Most Applicable Tactics
Finally, look across the events and the initial tactics you identified for each. What are the common actions within the first few steps for multiple events? This look offers a sense of the highest-impact, most flexible moves you can make when events start to change.
Simple and Done
This is obviously a very high-level approach to better handling strategic planning in an event-driven environment.
If this high-level approach is not sufficient for addressing your organization’s tolerance for event-based risk, you can do much more in-depth scenario planning.
But if your organization avoids this issue completely because it struggles to reach an aggressive level of strategic planning detail, a simple approach is far better than ignoring potential vulnerabilities and simply hoping implementation-altering events just don’t happen. – Mike Brown
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