11 questions to review strategic planning in times of crisis

I spent these last few days facing a dilemma. I write the VendaMais editorial weeks in advance, respecting a production schedule that requires deadlines for editing, revision, layout, etc.

And writing this text in times of crisis is always a challenge. After all, how to write something relevant now without knowing exactly what will happen, without having an idea of ​​what the scenario will be like in two or three months?

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We are experiencing 3 simultaneous crises

I launched VM in 1994. In other words, we have already gone through other crises throughout our history. However, this one is different, as it is not true that there are three crises together.

  1. The first crisis is that of health: the virus.
  2. The second crisis is economic, caused by containment actions (necessary and fundamental to fight the pandemic, but economically painful).
  3. The third crisis is psychological and emotional: the immense shock of having to deal with the first two crises while still being quarantined. The grief cycle is hard, painful, long… comes and goes in waves, with an emotional seesaw, a real roller coaster of feelings and emotions happening every day.

Even if it persists for a long time, we may even have a fourth crisis, which would be social (it has happened before, just study pandemics).

I believe it will not happen and the probability is small, but it is not zero, and all rational analysis needs to confront the reality of facts, however brutal and unpleasant they may be.

Which brings me back to the editorial… how to write about all this in quarantine, respecting the gravity of the moment?

At these times I like to recall an answer Jeff Bezos once gave to a journalist when she asked him about the changes that were taking place and how to deal with them.

Bezos replied:

“That’s an interesting question, but what really interests me is what doesn’t change.”

I agree with him. Based on what doesn’t change, we can make better decisions about strategic planning in times of crisis.

What doesn’t change in times of crisis?

  • It doesn’t change our creativity to overcome challenges;
  • It doesn’t change our persistence and perseverance;
  • It doesn’t change our resilience;
  • It doesn’t change our ability to create, plan, execute;
  • It doesn’t change our grip;
  • It doesn’t change our commitment to a greater cause.


And another thing that I clearly see that doesn’t change is the need to have mental models that help and guide us in times of crisis.

That’s why I wanted to present you with a sequence of 11 questions that serve not only to deal with the current situation, but to face and lead any moment of crisis in your life.

I am a big believer in optimism, but I also believe in realistic optimism – a positive focus on the long-term view as you confront reality, however brutal or uncomfortable.

We can’t confuse things, and as leaders we have an even greater responsibility to rightly target the people who depend on and trust us.

Before presenting the sequence of 11 questions, based on a template created by Keith J. Cunningham, let me explain where they came from.

Strategic planning in times of crisis and adaptation

In August 1949 a small tragedy occurred in the United States, at a place called Mann Gulch. 16 firefighters were fighting a fire that got out of control in a forest; 13 of them died.

When the US Forest Service went to review the reasons for the deaths, it became clear that, in the heat of the crisis (literally), a number of decisions had been taken wrongly, which ultimately resulted in tragedy.

For example, firefighters had always been trained never to be separated from their tools and equipment.

Therefore, all the firefighters who died still carried their backpacks and tools – even though they had to run uphill to try to escape the fire. It is true that they had been trained their entire lives to do this, but in a situation that needed to be adapted, they followed normal procedures and ended up dying.

Carrying all that weight, many of them quickly became exhausted. Even the strongest ones were much slower than they could be.

The fire eventually reached them… and they burned to death.

The clear guideline of all training up to that time was “fighting fire”. For that there were rules and procedures.

Fire was the enemy – let’s defeat the enemy! And to escape? What if at that moment it was not possible to defeat the enemy?

For this there were no standards or procedures. As a result, they also had not been trained to recognize the situation or how to handle it.

Firefighters then began a vigorous process of reviewing standard procedures and training everyone.

The questions being asked in this process can help you today, in this time of crisis, but they serve as a logic for the rest of your life.

In fact, it’s a great topic for a leader to think hard and discuss with their closest team. Follow up!

11 questions to rethink your strategic planning in times of crisis

1. What is the real problem we are facing and how is it different from what we’ve been thinking about before?

Really delve into it by asking, “Is this the real problem or is it a consequence of another bigger problem?”
Remember: the question is “what is the real problem?”

2. What are the strategies that have become obsolete and outdated in this situation and that are clearly holding us back or not helping us anymore?

3. What are the processes and procedures that are no longer useful in this situation and need to be revised?

4. What are the tools that are no longer useful in this situation – they are outdated, are useless at the moment, are a burden and take away our agility, for example – and therefore need to be revised?

5. What are the behaviors and attitudes that we need to eliminate because they are not being beneficial right now?

6. If intelligence is the ability to adapt and for you to adapt you need to learn new things and put into practice, what are the new things we need to learn and put into practice? What new knowledge and skills do we need to learn, reinforce, and develop to evolve in the process of adaptation and improvement?

7. What are the new ideas or new projects that can help us not only resolve this situation, but that positively position us to create a better opportunity in the future?

8. Who on our team or in the market has a solution or an idea about how to solve the problem we’re ignoring because it doesn’t fit neatly into our old way of thinking? In other words, which innovative ideas can we be blocking due to prejudice?

9. Who on our team really has the profile to make the necessary adjustments – both in attitude and in skills/execution – to help us in this transition process? Who is really part of our elite troop?

10. How do we redefine “success”? What is really our goal now?

11. What are the next steps?

This type of decision-making tool, which allows for a more critical and focused analysis of the scenario, helps a lot to control anxiety and direct actions in a more planned way – even if only tactically.

Work with scenarios (positive, neutral, negative) and frequently review what has been done using the framework above.

This will help you to better work around and overcome the numerous obstacles that we are likely to encounter in the coming months before we return to normalcy.

Worth reading:  Strategic Sales Planning in 6 Easy Steps

Some comments when creating your strategic plan in times of crisis:

  • Remember that Brazil is a show, and the show cannot stop. You are part of this show, we are counting on you.
  • Prepare for a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Take care and take care of yours.
  • Bet on the growth mindset (not the fixed mindset); have a winning (not a defeatist) mindset.
  • Bet on the long-term vision, but on short-term planning and execution.
  • Understand that hope and optimism are sorely needed, but remember it’s not that we can’t just rely on that. As Muslims say, “Trust Allah but tie your camel.”
  • It’s time to show your best you, your best version. We were called, the time has come. Rise up!
  • As we race to get back to the new normal, let’s take the opportunity to rethink which parts of the old normal were really worth it.

Finally, a quote from Winston Churchill:

“Never waste a good crisis”.

It seems hard to think about now, I know, but it’s what has always moved us forward as human beings.

Socially distant embraces, but very close in the vision of a better future.

Raul Candeloro

Knowing your company’s current development in detail is essential when it comes to strategic planning in times of crisis?