Somehow, we have managed to find our way through another year of exchange rate volatility, COVID-19 waves, social unrest and unpredictable lockdown restrictions. As business leaders, we’ve needed to adapt and plan on the fly, in response to forces beyond our control. Though I am hopeful that the worst is behind us, the lesson of the past two years is that we can’t take anything for granted.

Even so, I remain a firm believer in the importance of planning as a cornerstone of business success in volatile times. Sure, it’s important not to get too attached to our business plans when we may need to pivot fast, but we can also build flexibility into plans to accommodate uncertainties such as coronavirus, technology change, and political and economic risks.

That said, here is a four-step process for planning for 2022:

  1. Evaluate

The first two months of the year are a good checkpoint for assessing business performance.

Some of the questions you might want to consider are:

  • What progress did we make towards strategic goals such as digital transformation, revenue growth or increasing market share?
  • Is cash flow healthy?
  • Are we on track to meet our revenue and profit targets for the financial year?
  • How are we doing on metrics such as employee wellness or experience and customer experience?
  • Which products and services are underperforming or overperforming?
  • How are we faring compared to the competition?
  1. Investigate

Once you’ve taken the pulse of the business, you can take a closer look at the drivers of its performance. This will enable you to understand what is working and what is not.

A few questions to think about might be:

  • Are we using the right channels to reach customers?
  • Do our goods and services match our customers’ needs?
  • Is our pricing appropriate?
  • Are there ways to optimise our cost base?
  • How have our people adjusted to continued remote work or a return to the office?
  • Are our IT systems meeting our business needs?
  • Do our staff need new or improved skills or to be retrained?
  1. Strategic plan

The next step is to evaluate and adjust your strategic plan. Is your business plan and vision for the future realistic in light of current performance and market conditions? What needs to change to ensure that your business is sustainable and set for growth in the future? The answers to these questions should ideally be translated into a set of short, medium and long-term objectives that can be measured via key performance indicators. Using the OKR methodology is one way to ensure that a process like this is well-mapped to the businesses success.

  1. Action plan 

Once you’ve created a strategic plan, the next step is to turn it into an action plan. The action plan outlines the tangible changes you need to make to the day-to-day business to bring your strategy to life. It also outlines the specific investments, projects and programmes you’ll need to roll out, and allocates budgets, deadlines and responsibilities to the teams that will oversee execution. The action plan translates strategy into operations—without it, you may fail to execute your strategy.