While the country has pressed pause on so many things, perhaps this is actually a great time to rethink strategic planning. Some reasons:

  • Pre-pandemic life was moving at such an accelerated pace that a five-year plan seemed ancient by year three;
  • The time investment required for traditional strategic planning is enormous, has seemed increasingly onerous in recent years and is often dreaded by participants;
  • The final product/plan often sits on a cyberspace shelf, never really directing strategy much less monthly agendas.

Remote work provides an opportune time to rethink the best approach. For instance, instead of an all-day or even all-afternoon SP session, analysis can be divided into segments such as one-hour virtual sessions for several successive weeks. Shorter time obligations might inspire participants to log in ready to tackle ideas. Of course, meeting virtually will require more preparation time before and in between sessions and new tools will need to be employed that bring a virtual session to life.

The primary process phases stay the same but adapted in a way that just might become a new paradigm for strategic planning.

  • Data gathering is still a first step, but key internal and external stakeholders to involve may be slightly different. Certainly, the environment will be transformed. How this data is collected might change with a view to how it will be analyzed (e.g., new data analysis program, new data visualization software, etc.).
  • It is more important than ever to take stock of programmatic and operational strengths and how they can be leveraged to take advantage of opportunities.
  • Challenges or weaknesses may be exacerbated or newly revealed in a pandemic. If a prior year goal fell flat, was the pandemic to blame? Perhaps a bigger reason is an organizational weakness that can be mitigated.
  • If/then analysis has become imperative as no one really knows what a new normal will look like. Considering data analysis from the initial phase, revisit the logic model, how all parts of the organization are interconnected, and how those relationships have changed.

Perhaps the new pandemic paradigm warrants a one-year or 1-2 year plan, tying together the vision, mission, goals, objectives, strategies, programs and a robust feedback loop. The benefits of ensuring board meeting agendas are tied to monitoring strategic planning progress become more apparent. Thus, a pandemic paradigm is a golden opportunity to make strategic thinking a part of regular, ongoing board work, which has always been the goal.