For every story of a business laying off staff, another is quietly hiring and investing for the future. For every business ‘winging it’ without a plan, another is 4 years into a 5-year plan to take a dramatic upturn in their fortunes. Whilst HMG cancels its largest projects (yes, HS2, we are looking at you), some companies are delivering true transformational change to prepare for the road ahead. Somewhat ironically to some business leaders, who scoff at announcements of job cuts by others, those competitors may actually be transforming while you look on in amazement. Maybe, just maybe, they have realised something that you have not about the future of the market and where opportunities lie. So, without further ado, we take a look at planning for 2024 and how your business can succeed and thrive.
Planning for 2024 (and beyond)
It is tempting to look at the abandonment of the northern leg of HS2 and give up on any form of long-term planning or significant infrastructure investment. After all, if an organisation with almost unlimited purse strings can’t cobble together a few stations and some track, why bother? However, if we take the example of Nokia, who announced the loss of up to 14,000 jobs, they were clear that the money would fund investment into cloud computing and AI. They already had a plan and the slowdown in certain markets has led to cost-cutting to keep investment on track. To quote a recent article of ours, the best strategies are a combination of researched and emergent.
To make your strategic planning successful, we recommend asking yourself 3 questions:
- What is it we want to achieve in the coming years?
- What projects are already happening?
- Are we capable of achieving what we set out to do?
Identifying your strategic priorities is no easy task. Just look at the BoE, which if you consider the known inaccuracies in UK salary data, has trouble deciding on the next interest rate rise. Add to this a varying range of forecasts for the future from different organisations and it can seem opaque. For example, the DfT believes that road traffic could increase by 54% by 2060, with one of the reasons being cheaper running costs of electric cars. This is only one scenario but it shows the challenges and this was before HS2 was scrapped.
Understanding future options when planning for 2024
We don’t subscribe to a concrete plan without the flexibility to react to emergent strategies. When planning for 2024, the horizon is a little clearer and things should be more fixed than flexible. However, when planning for 2025 and beyond, a greater element of flexibility is required. It therefore helps to be armed with research into all the possible threats and opportunities that could materialise for your business. Assuming that you have the insights to confidently prioritise strategic choices, you are not starting from zero.
Most organisations have a number of projects ongoing at any one time. These could be infrastructure investment, deploying a new IT system or building a new function. Each of these consumes precious resources that could be used elsewhere. Furthermore, some of the projects that you have already signed off may not be congruent with your strategic goals. A complete review of your project portfolio would help to prioritise where resources should go. Additionally, we should be wary of the sunk cost fallacy, that it is not necessary to finish a project just because some money was invested into it. There may be greater benefit to be had, either now or in the future, of diverting these funds. If we take Rishi Sunak’s approach at face value, he has perhaps understood this and scrapped the northern leg of HS2 and diverted funds into many smaller, localised northern transport projects.
The capability to succeed and thrive
Not every leader wishes to hear that the organisation underneath them is not capable of delivering what they decide. However, this is exactly what many leaders experience. Timescale overruns, budget-busting scope creep and project abandonment are commonplace. Additionally, your teams still have a day job to do that leaves your projects devoid of the care and attention they deserve. This is assuming that your team possesses the required skillset to run a programme or a small project. Unfortunately, there is also a significant bias in many projects, from specialist bias to optimism bias. This means that many projects commence with the best intentions but then become mired in difficulty, require a change of approach or the world moved on due to a narrow internal viewpoint.
The key to any future plan is to consider the people, processes, partners and systems. What do you have at your disposal? Where are the gaps? Does one of them require a change or an upgrade? For example, one leader wishes for growth but people are fully utilised and the system is running close to capacity. Another wishes to innovate processes and technology but discovers that nobody has knowledge of continuous improvement techniques and the IT partner is wedded to a soon-to-be defunct platform. In summary, it is tempting to make a snap decision when you believe that you have seen a golden opportunity. However, if your people, processes, partners and systems are hamstrung, it merely leads to frustration.
When it pays to call for support
Like a turkey, we are not just for Christmas. There are many times when it pays to call for support. Perhaps the business is short on innovation. Maybe productivity has stalled. Perhaps the complexity layered on complexity is preventing change. Maybe some stakeholder needs are no longer being adequately served. Crucially, though many misunderstand strategic planning as simply written-down plans, it is so much more. The insights help you to identify the best opportunities and where to build competitive competence. It is an exercise in stress-testing your business. It helps you to understand what you are capable of and where money is best deployed.
Additionally, it helps to focus attention on the right priorities, removing excuses for avoiding change and ambitious transformation. Ultimately, strategic planning is about discipline and rigour, but it also provides a vision and a plan for a better future. Now, that is something that your employees can get behind and maybe, even your customers too.
Let’s get planning for 2024 and a thriving future
Think Beyond is your partner for research, planning and change to enable accelerated time to value. We support senior leaders in achieving their targets in the right way. So, if you worry about challenges, get frustrated about a lack of progress or need support to change, we can help.