Every organization faces challenging, completely unexpected situations. It could be a surprise competitive move, an unanticipated external event, or a new type of internal crisis demanding attention. Some organizations stumble in these situations. Others deal with curves thrown their way seamlessly, functioning as if nothing out of the ordinary happened.
Irrespective of why it wasn’t seen coming, when surprise decision making situations develop, you need a way to move forward in a strategic, orderly, and effective manner. Preparing mini-plans as part of your strategic planning activities is a way to do this. They help improve your readiness to act when the unexpected happens.
With the immediacy and flexibility imperative for success in challenging situations, brief plans tied to specific trigger events or event-based outcomes provide the ability to make decisions almost as a football team builds and executes a game plan. While a football team has an expectation of running certain plays to start a game or in specific situations, the team has command of a larger number of plays (or mini-plans). These can be arranged and executed in multiple combinations based on how the current set of events is unfolding.
Preparing Mini-Plans as Part of Your Strategic Planning Activities
What does a mini-plan include?
A mini-plan should feature clear, understandable terms with a focus on involving the right people upfront. It should spell out the first steps of getting started and provide signals to move to another mini-plan when it has run its course. It’s smart to leave room for the responsible team to fill in sensible actions based on what’s happening during implementation.
We recommend a mini-plan fit on one piece of paper and include the following areas (which are outgrowths of your regular strategic planning activities):
- Plan Title
- Goal of the Plan
- Critical Success Factors
- Audience(s) that are Impacted or Needed for the Plan
- Starting Tactics to Launch
- Expected Resources Needed during Implementation
- Communications Channels and Messages
This abbreviated structure makes completing a mini-plan relatively quick. Ideally, you shouldn’t need more than 30 minutes to get the mini-plan basics in place. Remember, the heart of the plan is spelling out two or three steps to get started; it’s not a fully-formed strategic plan.
Areas where you create mini-plans are specific to your organization, but consider the following situations:
- An interruption in a vital capability or function
- Market-changing competitive moves
- Reputation-based issues or other external crises that could befall the organization
After identifying potential scenarios where a mini-plan may be valuable (or you have the need thrust upon you from an event taking place), you can quickly prepare relevant mini-plans.
With mini-plans in place, you are in a much better place to make solid, strategic decisions during challenging situations. Even if the current situation necessitates improvisation, the mini-plan will help you start in a pre-planned way, modifying from an approach you’ve had time to consider before the heat of the moment.
Are you using something similar to mini-plans in your strategic planning activities? How are you applying them? And if not, what steps are you taking to handle decision making when you can’t plan ahead? – Mike Brown
The Brainzooming eBook 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times will help you examine your strategy foundation, insights, profitability drivers, and decision making processes when few things ahead are clear. We share suggestions on:
- Using your organization’s core purpose to shape decisions when things are changing
- Reaching out to employees with valuable insights into what to watch out for and what to expect
- Sharpening your command of cost and profit levers in your organization
- Implementing processes to focus and sharpen decision making