By Matthew Thomas | Guest Writer
In my part of the world, wind gusts are the stuff of legend — and reality. Fully loaded semitrailers have been known to blow off the highway onto their sides from them. Tall buildings are designed to sway or flex with the wind. We have mile after mile of ghostly gray-white windmills silently generating electricity. These winds are known to break rigid structures, while flexible ones survive the buffeting.
One of the reasons strategic plans get shelved before their time boils down to the plan’s ability to flex with changing conditions.
One of the reasons strategic plans get shelved before their time boils down to the plan's ability to flex with changing conditions — internal successes and failures, of course, but more often changes in the organization's external environment. Plans with incredible precision but without flexibility are often the first casualty of early success.
On-the-fly adjustments will always be necessary. Nevertheless, many organizations find building those adjustments into plans to be a considerable challenge. As is human tendency, we end up in a polarity of excessively detailed, layered, branched flowcharts, or making it up as we go, knowing it will all work out in the end.
Two approaches, working in tandem, help to keep plans clear and on track, even while navigating through windy conditions.
1. Clear Communication Plans
This sounds like a no-brainer. It is, but. Communication plans often struggle when purpose isn't clear, when lack of trust is (or even appears to be) the driver and when plans don't display mutual benefit to all parties involved. Those things quickly change communication plans into dreaded paperwork. Clear communication plans keep information flowing where it needs to in ways that improve everyone's capacity to complete their work.
2. Strategic Triggers
These are aspects of solid strategic plans developed by leadership teams that posit a variety of situations across major sectors of the organizational environment to which the leaders will need to respond. Perhaps the stock market rises (or drops) 40 percent in a month. Perhaps new regulations that affect core business come into effect, or old ones expire. Most industries have specific things they watch. This just puts them in place and creates a series of "first thoughts" about what might be done under those new circumstances: whether the plan has to be reworked from first principles, whether minor adjustments can be made or, more typically, something in between.