As we begin 2022, there are a lot of questions we just can't answer. We'll continue to experience uncertainty about the ongoing impact of the global pandemic on the economy, the supply chain, the workforce, etc. As many companies are setting budgets and priorities for next year, you may be tempted to keep your head in the weeds; putting out fires and solving problems right in front of you will lead to a never-ending game of whack of mole and keep you from moving forward in a meaningful way. You need to step back and consider some strategic questions as you plan for 2022.
Here are some prompts to help you think more strategically:
CULTURE: We're all tired of hearing buzz words like "war on talent" and "great resignation" but the reality is that if you aren't thinking differently about how to recruit and retain top talent, you'll get left behind. How can you keep your culture strong when teams may be working remotely or in a hybrid setting? How can you leverage your Core Purpose and Values to attract candidates in a highly competitive market? How can you reinforce and strengthen what your current team members love about your company culture so they never want to leave?
CUSTOMER: Has your core customer changed? Have their needs? Many companies had to pivot their service offerings (going virtual or offering delivery or switching to direct to consumer, for example). If you have new infrastructure in place, can you use it to go after a new market segment? Is your core customer from 2 years ago still the one that you can service most profitably? If you still have the same customer, what about their needs? Life may look very different for them now; how can you anticipate their needs and evolve to meet them?
PRODUCTS: Do you have a diamond in your backyard that you could monetize? Have you figured out a unique solution to a problem in the market that other companies in other industries would pay to solve? Do you have a problem that another industry has solved; could you partner or merge to bring an innovative solution?
COMPETITION: When things feel uncertain, it is tempting to look around, see what everyone else is doing, and do the same thing. If you resist that temptation, what could your company offer that's unique? How can you solve a problem for your customers that your competitors are not willing to solve? How can you set yourself apart?
VISION: Short-term thinking seems attractive when you don't know what's coming. But, making those short-term decisions is actually easier when you have a longer-term vision. Do you have a BHAG (or Big Hairy Audacious Goal) that inspires your team to achieve greatness in the next 10 years? Setting a longer-term strategic goal will help you decide what to say no to in the short term and help you attract and engage people who are also passionate about the vision (see #1 above!).
Slowing down to revisit some elements of your core strategy, ensuring they are still relevant and make sense, will help you survive whatever unexpected storms come your way next year and give you a roadmap for growing with purpose. Whether you take think time in your Annual Planning Session with your executive team or just carve out a few hours for yourself to focus and think deeply, working on the business rather than in the business will set you up for success.
As always, the key to effective strategy work is in the execution. So, once you've worked the questions above, decide on the few key priorities to do in 2022, communicate them to your whole company, and remain focused, aligned, and accountable for getting them done. Good luck!