March 1, 2024

All in the planning

ITM CEO Scott Davies wonders if it's worth making plans in these uncertain times

Around this time of year many businesses are planning, strategising and budgeting for the year(s) ahead. Depending on whether you like to know what you are doing for the next 38 weekends or prefer to live more of a white knuckle, one-day-at-a-time life, you may either love strategy or despise it.

But do the extraordinarily unpredictable times we are living in make business planning more difficult, even somewhat futile? 

I’ve always believed strategy and planning were about optimising the controllables, whilst flagging the potential external (uncontrollable) factors.

But how many five-year plans written before the pandemic were worth the blood, sweat and tears that went into them, given the way the situation unfolded?

The foreseeable future looks turbulent, so are the only plans we really need those that focus on how to manage volatility, which after all can be seen as simply the emergence of unexpected challenges and opportunities.

From sole trader to plc, you’re certainly going to need to manage cash – your bank isn’t going take a punt if your five-year plan is just to ‘roll with the punches’ – but your biggest choices might be whether you plan to run a model that is either super resilient or ultra-dynamic and shape-shifting.

I tend to believe that planning long term shouldn’t consume too much time just now (unless you’re in the business of developing robotics and AI that has the potential to exterminate us all – please think that through all the way if you wouldn’t mind).

At ITM, for example, we have some major initiatives planned on a three-year timescale but the prime focus is squarely on the next year or so, because that’s what we believe our members expect from us.

So I wish you well in your planning, including for the unexpected. The main thing business has taught me is that if you assemble and retain the very best team possible, you’ll be able to thrive no matter what.

And always remember, culture eats strategy for breakfast.