How to Build Strategy When “Set it and Forget it” Won’t Work

user Doug Randall
calendar

This piece was written by Doug Randall and originally published on Real Leaders.

A global pandemic. Civil unrest. Economic turmoil. 2020 taught us just how susceptible we are to surprise and disruption. With as much uncertainty as we experienced last year, it was nearly impossible to complete the year without a core realization: We should not focus on predicting the future, but instead become resilient to anything that might happen.

The antidote to the uncertainty that 2021 will bring is resilience – three levels of pliability that are must-haves for navigating this year and beyond. It is useful to have any one of these, but to thrive and prosper, you need all three. Scenario planning is the process through which you and your executive team can approach resilience collectively, deliberately, and systematically.

Let’s explore the three levels of resilience since we know that “set it and forget it” will not work as a strategy, and then see how scenario planning offers immunity to the negative impacts of the unknown while creating the conditions for success.

First, there is strategic resilience. You’ve got to make decisive choices, create new options, and have flexible strategies that respond to the full range of uncertainties. To do that, you need a clear view of the context surrounding your business and industry, and a structured way to understand the forces you could potentially face. Those companies that planned for multiple scenarios for how the pandemic would unfold thrived in 2020 – the businesses that supported virtual working, the restaurants that pivoted to take-out, and the healthcare providers that turned their focus to COVID responses. Businesses that did not adjust their strategies failed as quickly as those who only cut costs without pivoting strategically. Scenario planning provides you and your leaders a framework to understand what could happen, coupled with clear strategies for how you would respond under different conditions.

The second is relational resilience. You have to operate as a team, as a partner, as a vendor, in new contexts. How do relationships change when the context shifts so dramatically? Companies that prosper figure out how to meet customers’ emerging needs and those who re-configure relationships with vendors get their supply chains filled. And it’s the companies that maintain relationship and connection with their teams that bring on new talent and maintain high-quality strategic dialogue, even while “Zooming” from their living rooms, home offices, and bedrooms. Scenario planning helps leaders cultivate strategic dialogue, forward momentum, and connection despite the ambiguity.

And finally, there is emotional resilienceAt any moment in 2020, we felt hope, spaciousness, and connection while also feeling fearful, anxious, and outraged. Those who have an emotional resilience practice and an ability to look inside are able to adapt to conditions while not being overly reactive. You and your leaders need a systematic way to de-personalize highly emotional issues so that decision making can be made clearly and cleanly, and so constant pivots don’t lead to burn-out and wasted resources.

Scenario planning is a helpful tool for cultivating all three levels of resilience. The primary use case for scenario planning is to identify futures that your company should plan for. It provides a structured framework for navigating the unknown and is an alternative to prediction and forecasting what could be, rather than what will be. Because scenario planning is done in teams, it inherently allows for building and nurturing relationships and a shared awareness through structured strategic dialogue. And finally, scenario planning gives team a sense of comfort because it allows them to grapple with the unknown, rather than bury it and pretend it’s not there. In short, scenario planning brings harmony to the age-old conflict between fighting with and fleeing from reality.

Companies that leveraged Trium’s scenario planning toolkit in 2020 were able to develop short-term strategies to navigate the global pandemic. Now is the time to turn to the longer-term strategies, structural forces, and bigger choices businesses are facing as the pandemic, civil unrest, and economic turmoil continue. As you prepare for 2021 and beyond, instead of trying to predict a single future, and instead of trying to pretend that the future will look something like it does today, why not look at the full range of possibilities? Role play and imagine what it will take to win – and then create the conditions for success.

Scenario planning fits into almost any strategic planning process and can be done quite quickly. The outcomes are revolutionary and fundamentally different than any other strategy process because it targets all three levels of resilience. Scenario planning creates the possibility for leadership teams to win no matter what conditions they face. And along the way, it helps people feel connected to one another, connected to the future, and to see new opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have.

We welcome you to reach out to explore the scenarios that are unique to your organization and industry as you prepare for the unknowns ahead.

Back to TriumIQ

Let’s Talk

Contact Us

Trium IQ

The Case for Congruent Leadership

Extraordinary leaders regularly ask one very powerful question, “What am I doing or not doing that is…

Read

3 Ways Leaders Can Make Difficult Conversations Feel Easier

Leaders are expected to act as the guiding lights and role models for everyone else. And every leader, no…

Read

The Gift of ADHD: How My Son Taught Me To Be a Better Leader and Coach

I have a 15-year-old son who is a wonderful, intelligent, sensitive being who, in many ways, is…

Read

How to win in a post-pandemic future

Now that we are turning our collective gaze away from the immediate global crisis, it’s time to…

Read

The Paradox of Leadership

At its core, leadership is about the ability to leverage paradox. There are five polarities that are…

Read

“Maturity begins when one lives for others” – Hermann Hesse

Reflections on my new role as Founder and Chairman of The Trium Group I founded Trium in 1998 inspired…

Read

How to Effectively Leverage Executive Coaching: 3 Steps to Hiring a Coach

I lead the executive coaching practice at The Trium Group, where we serve senior leaders and their…

Read

How to Make Your Post-pandemic Leadership Offsite a Huge Success

With vaccination rates climbing, many companies are now considering how they’ll get their leadership teams working together…

Read

What Good Leaders Do When Replacing Bad Leaders

Those who are replacing poor or controversial leaders have a special challenge. Every leader who fills a…

Read

Catching Up with Reality

One of the great challenges that all human beings face is aligning their behavior with reality. This has…

Read

Focus on Your Other Hand

In the last year, as leaders have been navigating unprecedented levels of uncertainty and anxiety, our clients…

Read

Want to Be a Great Leader? Be a Great Coach

It’s no secret that the Bay Area is one of the highest-priced labor markets in the country,…

Read

How to Build Strategy When “Set it and Forget it” Won’t Work

This piece was written by Doug Randall and originally published on Real Leaders. A global pandemic. Civil…

Read

Your Only Job: Be Kind. Be Present. Be Clear.

As a management consultant, I get asked for advice all the time on a wide range of…

Read

What We Can Learn From Joe Biden About Purpose

Regardless of your political persuasion or orientation, it would be difficult to not admire Joe Biden’s journey….

Read

A Trium POV on The Purpose of Work

Andrew Blum reframes what work is all about and offers a different way of viewing work that…

Watch