Planning with a Mask … Creating the Future for 2021

Posted January 7, 2021 at 9:57 pm

This is about a cover up – get it –  planning with a mask … had to say that. A chance to be silly – we need that. The challenging times continue with the kids at home, you at home, things shutting down or not, office workers working at the office in shifts, bathrooms restricted by zones. Doing business is difficult. Do not forget about the wearing of the mask … and then there is Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype and it all goes on. For the holidays, we generated some kind of gathering and for most of us it was not a typical holiday.

Many have said I am so done with 2020.  Me too. Then how about 2021 and beyond? It is now here. What thinking do you and your leadership team have about 2021?  Many companies in normal times rarely plan beyond putting together a budget and some goals. In normal times, that is problematic and impacts performance. These are not normal times and real planning is crucial this year for an organization’s success. The following are thoughts regarding planning for 2021 with a mask:

  • The uncertainty facing us compels the need for strategic planning. It is not enough to sit in the stands as a spectator and watch the game of the pandemic, recession and the new administration waiting for the results of the game. If you want a say on how your organization will do in 2021, then you and your leadership team must leave the stands and get on the field.
  • The dilemma is that many organizations are saying, “Let us see how it turns out.” This is a passive approach. Your organization can wait and see what happens – that’s easy. The future will turn out. The problem is that by the time it turns out you are too slow regarding taking advantage of how it turned out and the business possibilities that arise.
  • As you engage in planning, what are you engaged in? Let’s be straight about it; you are guessing. It is very foggy out there. Truly, there is lots of uncertainty in our business futures; vaccines when and who, the recession, the new administration – what does that mean – and then the rest of the world – where is it going? It all gives me a headache. If the best that you can do is guess, then you better get started. Keep checking your assumptions.
  • Your leadership team needs to explore and generate possible futures that can emerge. By exploring what could be, the leadership team empowers themselves. The organization ends up being better prepared for dealing with whatever shows up. As a product of planning, 80% of the companies that I am working with are actively hiring key employees. Given what the organizations are up to and see for themselves, the need for additional and replacement hires is clear.
  • A year ago, while planning with a myriad of clients, the idea of a pandemic was never mentioned. Clearly the facilitator they were using, aka me, was incompetent – funny. The strategic plan for most companies by April 1 was irrelevant. New plans had to be created. These client companies, because they were actively engaged in and executing on their plans, were better positioned to deal with the pandemic.
  • We find that the companies that do well are the ones that are disciplined and focused. While the focus changed, their disciplined approach to executing on the plan has really supported them in dealing with these challenges. Case in point: As the economy contracted in early spring and business declined, several of our companies in the uniform rental business had to dramatically retune their finances. Getting paid by their clients who were also undergoing big changes became paramount. Keeping track of their clients’ changing situations and needs also became critical.

So plan, guess, whatever, and get started. Schedule with your leadership team three days, two to or three weeks apart. The following is an outline of a simplified planning process:

  • On Day 1…complete 2020 and acknowledge and celebrate what got accomplished. Review what worked and what didn’t work. Learn from and see what you did around COVID-19. Look at what you are taking into 2021 and what you are leaving behind in 2020. Then raise the critical issues that you need to solve for a healthy 2021.
  • On Day 2…take on the critical issues that you highlighted. Put your heads together as a leadership team and solve them. Do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis on the company and decide what are the critical things from a SWOT angle that need to be solved.
  • On Day 3…use this session to set your numbers and goals and update your one-page/two-page plan.
  • Now schedule monthly and quarterly meetings in which you update and refine the execution of the plan. You are also, during this time, creating next steps in your planning (really guessing).
  • Like exercise, a little planning is better than no planning. More planning is better than a little planning. Get your sessions scheduled, get started and get into action. Consider getting a coach, if needed. Wear a mask in a large room, or go to a park, or you can always Zoom. Just start strategic planning and do it.

Let us know how your masked pandemic planning goes. We look forward to hearing of your adventures.

Keep causing, creating. …

Editor’s Note: Author and industry consultant Bruce Hodes wrote this 2021 strategic-planning article. Since growing up in his family’s boating business to founding his company, CMI, Hodes has dedicated himself to helping companies grow by developing high-performance cultures. He’s also a regular contributor to Textile Services magazine. Contact him at, 800.883.7995,