All organizations need a plan B for 2020. The pandemic impacted everyone, there is no way around it. The question is now, what do you make of this plan B? Will it be a shorter and reduced version? Or will you be looking for new opportunities and perhaps turn 2020 in the best year ever? What you make of it, depends on how you frame your plan B.
The need for plan B
When the pandemic just started, I think we all had hoped that it would be temporary. That things would be back to normal in just a few weeks.
Yesterday, while celebrating the high school graduation of my son, it became clear to me that it probably will take a long time for things to get back to normal. We went to Reston Town Square for dinner. Once a lively center of entertainment and restaurants with filled parking garages, it now had ample of space and many stores were closed for good, including the Apple store.
The restaurants that were still open, offered outdoor seating. However, those enjoying their meal were not pleased with all the people who passed them at less than 6 feet and of which fewer than 50% wore masks. We ended up enjoying our meal in the park, were the fountains were dead and a small group of protesters had just marched by.
I suspect that most companies, like Organizing4Innovation, just coped to get by. When it became clear that things would not work out as planned with workshops and conferences being cancelled, I adjusted our plan as new information came in.
Now we are at a point that we need a plan B for the rest of the year. Coping is no longer sufficient. We are working towards a plan that will help us thrive in this new reality.
Revising your plans is something that is part of the innovation process. When innovating, you set out your destination, and along the way, with new information coming in, you adjust your plans. That can mean that you will end up on your plan B.
By the way, that does not mean that plan B is worse, as the story of Twitter shows. “In March 2006, Biz Stone, Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey were working on a new venture called Odeo, a podcasting service. Odeo was in something of a creative slump, and Dorsey wondered if a short messaging service would enable everyone in the company to communicate with others in the group might be ov some help. Their solutions, which the world now knows as Twitter Inc., was to build a simple Web application that would let the team stay in touch by sending short 140-character message to the rest of the group. It wasn’t long before they realize that the new application held considerably more promise than the original podcasting idea on which they had been working. The rest is history.” (source)
Beware though that you don't change too quickly. I have seen innovation teams change their plans with every new bit of information that came in. That is not workable either. You need to have faith in your plans and collect more than one piece of evidence, before you change your course.
Drafting up plan B
How can you break through the mold and find a plan B that works for your business for 2020?
First you need an idea or opportunity to pursue. The best ideas typically resolve somebody’s pain, some problem you have identified for which you think you have a solution. With COVID19, your plan B may revolve about things people no longer can or want to do. Or opportunities that have come about now that everyone is much more comfortable working virtually. It can be a simple as a restaurant opening outdoor seating in the parking lot, as Clarity has done, an upscale restaurant in our town. Dining options are scare these days!
Instead of starting from scratch, it is always easier to copy what others are doing. So, if there are some analog business ideas, or portions of which you can borrow or adapt to help you understand the economics and various other facets of your proposed business and its business model that is certainly worth considering. You can also look at opposite business models, to know what you should not do.
With these examples in hand, you can start to draw up a few “certainties” about your own new offering. Beliefs you hold about the answers to your questions, despite having no real evidence that those beliefs are actually true. That is the start of your plan.
Then you will need to take a leap of faith and act upon these plans. You do so, not by blindly executing the plan you just created. That would be foolish.
Executing on plan B requires you to diligently list all your assumptions and setting up experiments to test the most critical ones. Which of these beliefs, if they don’t hold true, would make your plan B fall apart?
And then you start with the execution. That is, test these critical assumptions one by one. Sometimes that requires doing interviews with people knowledgeable about the problem or technology. Sometimes, it requires creating prototypes and using those to get feedback from people.
The advantage of this approach is that it does not require a lot of upfront funding. You can finance your project one step at a time.
Using this approach, you shape the new reality step by step. It can be, that you will have to adjust your plan B and move to plan C. You adjust based on evidence, and do so, till you have something that will work.
Can this be done before the end of 2020?
You may wonder, but it is already June, do I have time for all that diligent planning and step by step execution?
In our experience, it does not have to take a lot of time to develop a solid business case. Even if you cannot work on it full time, you should be able to get a plan out in a matter of a few weeks. That is, if you know what to focus on and what to put in the plan.
And with the initial plan in place by mid July or early August, you will still have plenty of time for the execution.
If you are not sure how to go about creating a plan in these turbulent time, our online T4 program is set up to help you do so. We offer a free version, that will help you get started and create your project description.