Goal setting has likely been on the back-burner for you as of late. The COVID-19 crisis has had you scrambling to make adjustments just to survive. You’ve revisited your cash flow forecasts, revised sales projections, and possibly even applied for a loan all while either managing a newly remote workforce or pivoting your business to operate under shelter-in-place parameters.
You’ve been taking action to mitigate the effects of the crisis on your business. The last thing on your mind is to sit down and revise your annual and quarterly goals. But here’s the thing, we’re moving away from crisis management and moving toward business recovery.
This means now more than ever, it’s important to revisit your company goals and establish a clear direction for you and your team. The following includes tips and methods for how to go about adjusting your own business goals. These are based on how our own team at Palo Alto Software has approached goal setting during the current financial crisis.
Adjust the way that you and your team plan
You likely have a set method for how you approach annual and quarterly planning with your team. It probably involves getting together in a boardroom, presenting different points of view, maybe even hashing ideas out on a whiteboard. Unfortunately, for the remainder of 2020, that traditional face-to-face practice won’t be possible, meaning that you and your employees will need to get used to remote planning.
If you embrace this idea and are willing to make adjustments, you can turn this challenging circumstance into a refined planning system. Here’s what we recommend doing to help you adjust your planning methods and embrace virtual planning.
Start with department-specific goals
Instead of jumping right into having everyone join a Zoom call to hash things out, start a bit smaller. Set a timeline for departments and managers to establish their own goals for the upcoming quarter and tie them into the larger company-wide goals you’ve established.
Allowing your teams to focus on their core principals means more realistic goals, less interference, and more collaborative efforts as your employees adjust to working remotely. It also means less time spent figuring out how to conduct a productive 50+ person virtual meeting and ensures that each employee has ideas and personal goals to bring to the table if that becomes necessary.
Allow for discussion outside of meetings>
Traditionally, you may save official goal-setting discussions for in-person meetings, so that everyone has exposure to what’s being said. However, since meeting face-to-face is no longer possible, you may find that other forms of communication can be just as useful when outlining tasks for your team.
Opening up new Slack channels, sending out group email chains, or just working off a shared Google doc may be more than enough to keep the conversation going. It may even save you the time typically spent conducting regular meetings, as enough information is readily passed around to keep everyone informed.
Set shorter timelines for feedback and results
In a crisis, everything is constantly changing. You can no longer rely solely on historical data, last month’s results, or monthly projections. Instead, you need to be working off weekly, even daily timeframes to keep your business in-line with external market factors.
You need to be treating the way you set goals and check results in the exact same way. Set shorter timelines, more optimistic due dates, and regularly pull results as often as it seems beneficial. It’s better to start at a faster pace and ease up as things settle down, rather than sticking to a traditional review cycle and immediately falling behind.
Collaborate between departments
It’s all hands on deck when your company is in crisis, meaning there can’t be as many walls between employees and departments as before. Team goals need to be available for everyone to review. The same goes for any data your departments collect.
The more that everyone is in the know, the more information that can be shared, the more likely you’ll find opportunities for collaboration. This is a good practice at any point in time, but in an economic downturn, like we’re currently experiencing, it can be a gamechanger when attempting to recover sales.
Review your current annual and quarterly goals
As you’ve gone through and revisited your financial statements, you’ve likely done a light version of goal revisions. They probably weren’t official and had little to do with your established 2020 goals, but you did have to make adjustments nonetheless. As you sit down to officially review and revise your goals, approach doing so with that same methodology, starting with what’s relevant now and working from there.
Shift short-term goals toward current priorities
Short-term doesn’t quite have the same meaning as it did before the crisis. Pre-crisis, your short-term goals were likely represented by monthly or quarterly tasks. Post-crisis, you should think of them as weekly and even daily goals.
Shifting your mindset toward what is currently relevant is necessary in such a volatile economic environment, and ensures that you are constantly on your toes. Start here and prioritize what’s important to mitigate the effects of the crisis on your business. Once the bleeding has stopped, or you start seeing some forward momentum, that’s the time to start thinking further ahead.
Identify goals that are still relevant
While most of your goals have been blown out of the water, there may be some worth salvaging. You can’t just assume that everything you originally planned is out of date. Instead, take the time to review your original goals and identify what’s still relevant to your current situation.
Some may simply need a timeframe adjustment, others may still be completely relevant and require no change at all. You may even find that some goals that you had slated for later in the year or whenever you had time, can now be placed at the top of your to-do list. Whatever the case, take the time to revisit what you had originally established. It will save you time and help bring relevant goals forward.
Eliminate or sideline irrelevant goals
As you’ve gone through your original goals, you’ve likely realized that you had a lot set up for 2020, maybe even too much. And while it may be difficult, part of reviewing your original plans is eliminating or postponing irrelevant goals.
You need to be focusing on what’s most important, the core of your business, increasing cash flow, retaining employees, communicating with customers, etc. Anything else that requires too much time or resources is a distraction that you and your business simply cannot afford.
If you find some goals to be unrealistic or unsalvageable, eliminate them completely. If others provide long-term value but simply aren’t necessary at this time, put them in a backlog and revisit them in the next quarter.
Create goals for newly important areas
Serving as an extension to your short-term priorities, you’ll need to focus on establishing goals around emerging priorities. The crisis has caused a great amount of disruption which in the process has created new opportunities that weren’t viable before.
Discuss with your team what areas have become more important in their day-to-day workflow and if they’ve seen any initial return on investment that’s worth capitalizing on. You’re basically turning your short-term efforts into official monthly, quarterly, and annual goals that you’ll explore and revise.
Review and revise your goals on a weekly basis
It’s already been mentioned within this article, but the volatile environment caused by a financial crisis means that you need to make regular adjustments. Now, this doesn’t mean waiting a month and then making a change, it means regularly reviewing and revising on a weekly basis. Everything is filled with uncertainty, meaning that it’s hard to establish long-term plans without making smaller steps to see what sticks.
Set daily and weekly check-ins
With your team being remote you aren’t getting those regular face-to-face water cooler conversations throughout the week. This means information and results aren’t as readily available if that isn’t made into a primary focus for your business.
The best thing you can do is establish short daily check-ins to go over projects, results, and hash out any questions. Then you and your management team should conduct a weekly meeting to go over the same thing at a broader scale. Doing so will make sure that nothing is left untouched, that everyone stays informed and that your goals are consistently up to date.
Compare year over year and time over time
Falling back on the fact that everything is volatile in a crisis, this also expands to traditional financial reporting for your business. If you’re only comparing year-over-year (how your business performed in the same month last year) you’ll have a hard time gaining insight into how your business is actually performing.
Instead, add time-over-time (t/t) performance comparisons into the mix, where you’re actively comparing results on a week-to-week and month-to-month basis. Doing so gives you a better idea of what changes you’re making work and where you still need to improve. It can help inform you if your monthly and quarterly goals are realistic, progressing, or if you need to make adjustments.
Slowly establish long-term direction
We’ve focused a lot on actively comparing and adjusting your goals on a regular basis instead of pouring everything into a long-term direction. While it’s important to be nimble and actively retooling your plans and goals, it’s also vital to look toward establishing firm quarterly and annual goals for the remainder of 2020.
Keeping the long-term needs of your business in mind will ensure that you don’t make any decisions that may have negative ramifications past a few weeks or months. It also helps you pay attention to when your adjustments are working consistently and if there’s an opportunity to settle back into a more regular planning cycle.
Bring it back to your business plan
Actively maintaining and adjusting your goals is necessary to keep your business healthy and recovering throughout a crisis. But you want to be certain that any adjustments you make consistently reflect your overall business plan and core company goals. This is why it’s just as vital to maintain and update your business plan and financials alongside your weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual goals.
We have plenty of free planning resources to help you keep everything on track, including:
But if the thought of directly maintaining every single document and spreadsheet has you worried, you may want to check out LivePlan. LivePlan keeps all of your planning documents in one place and easily allows you to make adjustments, test multiple forecasting scenarios, and actively review the current health of your business with one simple dashboard.
Whatever you choose, just be sure that you start redefining what goal setting and planning within your business looks like. If you keep your company nimble and set a clear vision for your team, you have a better chance of making effective adjustments and steering clear of unseen disasters.