Mayes Wilson & Associates

Annual Planning: Don’t let the chaos keep you from leading

Sara Wilson, CPCC |

I thought of calling this “Annual Planning in Times of Chaos” but realized times of turmoil can be times of great possibilities and growth.  The trick is to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the uncertainty.  One way to do this is to return to your annual plan.

When was the last time you looked at your strategic plan?  If you are using it to guide your board meetings, frame employee performance reviews, and keep your organization’s activities aligned with your mission, give yourself a pat on the back (and I am doing the Flossing dance to celebrate with you). If it’s been a while since you’ve looked at your plan, now is the time!

Given the crazy pace of change, you may think planning is impossible right now.  After all, isn’t a good plan based on the past?  What happens when things are chaotic, does that make prediction and planning impossible?

The short answer is: No.  The companion to your strategic plan is your annual plan–the guide to what your team will focus on for the upcoming 12 months. “Guide” is a key perspective. The idea is not to impose inflexibility on your organization, but rather to create a framework that allows for the discovery of new strategies and possibilities all the time.  This opinion piece by The Digital Transformation People shows how some corporations are using innovative planning techniques that allow leaders to prepare their organizations for a future that may be very different from today.

Thinking about the effects of change on organizations is not new.  One influential thinker on this topic is Margaret Wheatley. In her 2006 book, Leadership and the New Science, she took chaos theory and applied it to organizational management.  Here’s one way she describes a planning process that seems more relevant today than ever: “We can encourage vital organizational ambiguity with plans that are open, visions that inspire but do not describe, and by the encouragement of questions that ask ‘why?’ many times over.”

Don’t let uncertain times keep you from planning for the future.  Revisit your plan and use it to strategize the upcoming year. (If you don’t have a plan, I know a really great facilitator!)