How well do you deal with change? No one is immune to the desire for things to stay the same- after all, life’s easier if you never have to grow or adapt. But the truth about life is that environments change, organizations change and people change. It is important to have a strategic business plan that is also adaptive. Virtually nothing will ever stay the same. It’s more important than ever to prepare ourselves and our employees for change- both expected and unexpected.
In addition to your internal environment, your strategic plan needs to be adaptive to survive changing or unanticipated conditions. A business that develops and executes a strategic plan gains significantly from the experience, and starting with a working model and achieving a tangible plan can be more successful for your business than having no plan at all.
Over the life of a strategic plan, a company’s vision and mission often remain the same, but its goals and objectives probably need to be revised. Depending on the industry, some businesses can maintain a strategic plan for a year or longer, whereas others have to respond to market changes more frequently.
Move ahead with the plan as established, but be prepared to let go and switch strategies as necessary. Corrective actions need to be taken quickly to compensate for the dynamic business environment most businesses operate within. In today’s ever-changing business environment, who has the time to stop and figure things out? No one. You adapt on the fly and so should your plan.
Change: The only constant
Two caterpillars are conversing and a beautiful butterfly floats by. One caterpillar turns and says to the other, “You’ll never get me up on one of those butterfly things.”
What a powerful, and fun, parable about change. Change, even though we often resist it, is inevitable. In fact, your strategic planning process may trigger changes in your own organization, either in terms of the work done or in the internal structuring of the work
No matter how you present it, people struggle with change. They may need help accepting and adapting positively to the changes, though. That’s where you come in. Determining which changes require action and which require monitoring is the responsibility of you and your management team. When change is needed, take the following steps:
- Make sure everyone understands the change and why it’s necessary. Even if people have been part of the strategic planning process, they may need the implications of decisions explained to them afterwards.
- Respond to people’s ideas and feelings. Let them express their concerns and respond to them. If you can’t agree, at least be sympathetic about the feelings that are generated by change.
- Develop a planned process of change. Share the process with everyone in the organization or project, so people know what to expect and when to expect it.
Adapting your plan as necessary
Never lose sight of the fact that strategic plans are guidelines not rules. It’s fine to deviate from your plan, but you need to understand why you make a course correction.
Every three months or so, evaluate the plan implementation by asking these key questions:
- Will the goals be achieved within the time frame of the plan? If not, why?
- Should the deadlines be modified? (Before you modify deadlines, figure out why you’re behind schedule.)
- Are the goals and action items still realistic?
- Should the company’s focus be changed to put more focus on achieving the goals?
- Should the goals be changed? (Be careful about making these changes
- know why efforts aren’t achieving the goals before changing the goals.)
- What can be gathered from this adaptation to improve future planning activities?
Adapt your plan according. Always keep copies of past plans and include an updated date in the footer of the document.
We all have to deal with change, and in the last couple years as the current global economic challenge has taken hold, we’ve had to deal with it more and more. As you confront each challenge, we hope that you do so strategically.