As a young engineer, I was taught that there was a 3-step process for project management. The steps included Make the Plan, Work the Plan, and Renew the Plan. Back in early 2020, many of us made plans for how we would handle the uncertainty and changes due to COVID-19. Most of those plans weren’t intended to still be going on. The feel that this is ‘just extended snow days’ is over and very little is ‘back to normal’ in our personal and professional lives. Most of us are still working from home, picking up groceries and takeout curbside, and many schools will have a blended format for the fall. Truth be told, many of us believed that by now things would have settled down and we would be back to mostly normal. So, we did as little real adapting as possible. We addressed the immediate situation with a little planning and a good dose of hope. And, as Anderson Cooper said, “Hope is not a plan.”
Now it looks as if this is going to last a lot longer than we thought. Google just announced that they are going to allow their employees to work from home through July of 2021. Holy cow! They are planning, right now, for another year of this situation. How many of us had ‘kids out of school through the 20/21 school year’ on our Bingo card? So, it is time to renew our plans from early 2020 – what worked, what didn’t work, and adjust.
Two specific areas for renewal are completeness and skills. Did we stretch the time window out far enough in the original plan to make us really plan? Or, did we just create a 3-month plan and bet that the pandemic would be over? Were our plans complete and include contingencies? For example, if children are returning to any in-person school, did our plan include both having them going to school and them coming home for 2 weeks of isolation when there is a positive COVID-19 case? We need to widen and lengthen our view of the plan so that more contingencies are included. For my business, my plan to provide training to clients must include both adapting existing content to a virtual format and looking at how to remake my business in a new world with less person-to-person contact. My time window must stretch out long enough so that I can’t just adjust, I have to get creative and reinvent.
The second area for plan renewal is skills. Specifically, do we, or our teams, or our families, have the skills to shift and adapt so that we thrive, not just survive this situation? Do we have the skills to come out of this better prepared for whatever comes next? Do we have the skills to help and support others as they shift and adapt? Uncertainty and change are frustrating speed bumps for some people and paralyzingly maddening for many others. The good news is that with skills it can be better and easier. Without the skills to manage the uncertainty and change, we’ll get stuck. We get overwhelmed, frozen, complain about how we don’t like the situation – feeling powerless to do anything. Conversely, with the skills of understanding how people go through a change, identifying what is really upsetting you, expressing feelings about it, and declaring possibilities, we can become more responsible for what we want, more adaptable to reality, more engaged and more engaging – all so that productivity, profitability, and outlook improve.
So – what does your plan renewal include? What stays in the plan and what must change for your situation as it is now? Take this renewal opportunity to plan big. Plan with your purpose in mind so that going forward you are more and more on-purpose. Plan a bigger time window and go far enough into the future that it causes you to get very creative and puts entirely new options on the table. Plan for a bigger investment in skills for yourself, your teams, and your family so that adapting and coping are less of a struggle, people feel more included, and a part of a solution. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” So, spend your renewal energy wisely as we are going to be in this situation for a while longer. Renew your plan well now and set yourself up to be more prepared and more capable – whatever comes next.
Let us know how we can support you, your plan renewal, and your skills. As always, we welcome your comments.