How Do You Plan For 2021?

As organizations, we just underwent significant planning to adjust to the conditions of a global pandemic and economic shutdown. While it’s not over, it is time to start thinking about next year and how we will achieve success in 2021. Not feeling ready?

This may be the most important, yet the most difficult planning year we’ve experienced. What we do next matters. So, how do you start thinking about next year under the current circumstances?

  • The first rule: Don’t break what you’ve done.
    Many organizations have done the hard work to re-align cost structures to current conditions. Stay mindful of this moving forward. Resist the temptation to put resources before revenue. Temper your hope when making decisions and look to facts and data to initiate your moves.

  • Find a new baseline.
    All organizations have been impacted by the global pandemic. Some have seen a serious uptick, like grocers, freezer manufacturers and bike stores. Many companies will shrink in 2020 to some degree. In traditional planning, we use the previous year’s performance as the baseline for the next year’s goals. That won’t work so well in 2021 because this year is an anomaly. You may need to look back to 2019 and use a combination of factors to establish a baseline to forecast performance for the coming year.

  • Budget for uncertainty.
    We can expect some element of recovery in the next year, but a significant level of uncertainty remains. It’s more important than ever to model around three scenarios: Least, Likely and Lucky.
    • Least: This is a minimum bar for performance, given all that we currently know.
    • Likely: This is what we create goals and initiatives around, while remaining prepared to parachute to “least” (or hopefully soar to “lucky”).
    • Lucky: This is how we could perform if the elements align in our favor. We all would like to think this is where we’ll land. This is not the place to build a budget and plan around.

  • Invest in elevating your brand.
    Get out there, market and consider ramping up your efforts. This is an opportunity to outhustle your competition. It shows your customers that you’re strong and you’re all in.

Take the lessons you learned—and apply them in your planning. At Marco, we learned a lot about being decisive and the impact when we weren’t. We learned that we can make quick adjustments, like transitioning 1,400 employees to work from home in 72 hours.

We learned that we’re resilient and we can perform under the craziest of circumstances. We learned that cutting costs is faster but growing is still much more fun. I’m ready to get back to the fun part. How about you?

We'll be talking about making difficult decisions in an upcoming episode of our Let’s Tech podcast. Subscribe today so you don't miss it. Check out past episodes and learn more at

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Topics: Leadership, Strategy, Business Metrics, Strategic Planning, Leadership Team