Is Your Plan-​Ahead Team in Place?


Is your plan-​ahead team in place and working on what your organization will do once the social distancing mandates ease and we’re encouraged to get back to business as usual? You may have already determined the damage to your business has been significant. If you expect to survive and eventually thrive again, you can save time and money by appointing a ‘plan-​ahead team’ and working with them on setting a strategy.


A group of McKinsey analysts, headed by Martin Hirt, has put together a suggested framework for how to restart your organization as we move into the next phase of the new COVID-​19 world. Planning for the future can be a huge challenge when you’re not sure how long business will be impacted by the pandemic. But if you do nothing at all, you’ll drift without the edge that your competitors are likely developing now. 

Reviewing Your Current Business Situation

Because of the ongoing uncertainty about when the economy will turn around, you can’t develop a strategy until you know where you are and where you want to go. “Your plan-​ahead team should take stock in three main areas: your financial assumptions, your ongoing initiatives, and your big strategic choices.” 

Where Do You Want to Be?

Ask your plan-​ahead team to develop a realistic picture of your business as it stands now. Your team should also develop projections about where the business will be in six months, one year and two years from now. The projections should include optimistic and pessimistic sales figures for different product lines. One of your product or services lines may be poised to grow because of economic changes related to the virus. And another product may experience declining sales because of what’s happened.

Remember that all of this planning takes place in a world of uncertainty. To benchmark a realistic statistic such as a projected drop in sales, you may want to consider what economists are saying about the anticipated decrease in GDP for this year.

One of the biggest dangers an organization can encounter in the planning period is emotional volatility. When leaders sense that their business line may be cut or reduced, they may react emotionally. You’ll need to keep the team focused on developing the best possible plans for the organization and ask employees who are doing the research to be methodical about the information they’re collecting.

Agility and Your Plan-​Ahead Team

If your organization typically develops one-​year and three-​year plans, it’s time to change — at least temporarily. With so much uncertainty in the marketplace, your plan-​ahead team must be able to change strategies on short notice. Many small businesses are used to operating that way. If you’re not, it's time to pay attention to which initiatives are working at the one-​month or two-​month point. The team needs the agility and flexibility to respond quickly to what’s happening. When customers and prospects show interest in a specific product or service, the organization should be able to shift resources to support the demand. 

We don’t have a crystal ball to consult, but we can make educated guesses about the future. The most successful organizations will be those with agile leaders who are willing to take risks, accept that they won’t always be right, and then adjust their business models as needed.