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Strategic Planning in Times of Need

Strategic Planning During COVID-19

April 15, 2020

Whenever there is turbulence in an environment, a feeling always emerges that dictates a response. Usually the response level is proportional to the amount of turbulence and just taking action can feel like an organization is working to address the issue at hand. In many cases, organizations can mistake the amount of effort for a more purposefully directed effort that is built on sound strategy and assembled to address the needs dictated by the uncertain road ahead.

Strategic Planning

The major components of developing such a strategy include: 1) Addressing issues proactively and sustainably; 2) Strategy development; 3) Maintaining focus on objectives; 4) Implementation.

Addressing Issues Proactively + Sustainably

Addressing issues proactively means more than just creating energy and momentum — these types of kinetic movements should respond to the circumstance. The ability to be present, even when you are not able to be there physically, builds trust and shows compassion. Checking on employee mental health and the well-being of those in your organization builds stability. Anchoring your efforts as an organization and adding clarity and focus to your purpose builds hope and a forward-facing approach to what might come.

Developing a Strategy

Once you have established an ecosystem responsive to the dynamic changes around you, it is time to look at the development of your strategy — defining what the most pressing problems are for your organization and then cultivating a solution on how to address them.

First, let’s define the problem. What are the things that can be done to put the needed infrastructure in place to address the different components of what is impacting your organization?

  • Assemble your core strategy team (be as inclusive as you can)
  • Inventory and deploy protective measures for your team
    • Define expectations for remote work
    • Define criteria for safe, positive customer interactions
    • Increase communication, timing and transparency through the right channels
  • Develop contingency plans
  • Message ahead of changes/be proactive about stopping misinformation
  • Find alternative ways of delivering value

Next, let’s put mechanisms in place to implement a solution. What things should we be doing to make sure we are providing solutions to the problem (as we know it) and how can we continue to be adaptable? Implement new processes rapidly, but with intention

  • Communicate clear decision making/clarity of organizational chart
  • Develop financial models for various scenarios; explore and inventory available resources
  • Proactively communicate with vendors, volunteers, landlords, utilities, etc.
  • Consolidate administrative functions and centralize resources to emphasize support and resilience

Maintain Focus

With these pieces in place, you will be able to maintain focus on your objectives. Acknowledgement of how things have changed for your organization is key. You need to be able to accurately assess your capabilities.

  • What do we continue to do well?
  • What are the strengths of the new operating arrangements/”distributed office”?
  • What are our biggest strengths and most robust resources?
  • How can we promote stability?
  • Do we have the mechanisms in place to leverage our current resources successfully?
  • Is there a need to look outward for support?
  • Do we understand the circumstances we are in?
  • Are we doing enough to adapt?
  • What should we not be doing?

Armed with a knowledge of what you are capable of, your updated strategies and tactical framework might include:

  • An updated determination of how you are going to meet your customer’s needs
  • Acknowledgement that your strategy may need to focus on short-term adaptations, but not lose sight of your long-term goals
  • How to prevent slipping in triage mode
  • How to set immediate goals and pursue actions that resonate and engage internally and externally, build momentum and enhance sustainability


As you move into implementation, remember that every business, nonprofit and community may react differently — they are like any ecosystem undergoing trauma. Be prepared to adapt dynamically. It is critical to emphasize resilience and reinforce your networks of support.

Even when faced with high levels of uncertainty, do not discard your long-term strategies — it is tantamount to throwing a roadmap out of the car window when you are lost; these strategies took time to develop and they likely remain relevant. Completely restructuring your strategy adds stress to a stressful situation; focus on re-prioritizing your short-term tactics. Build stability from what remains true about your strategic plan, your values and your goals — the map remains the best way to get where you are going — even with major detours.

See a recent webinar I hosted with the Greater Des Moines Partnership below:


You can count on The Partnership to continue to share accurate and fact-based updates as well. See more on COVID-19 here.

Find these tips useful? Find more business tools and information by visiting the Business Resources page.

Joe Benesh

Joe Benesh is the President and CEO of The Ingenuity Company, located in Des Moines. The Ingenuity Company specializes in Strategic Planning, Diagramming, Organizational Design Thinking, and Leadership/Change Facilitation. He also teaches strategic planning at the University of Iowa in the MBA Program.