Let’s Rethink The Five-Year Plan

If you had asked me in 2019 where I thought my organization would be today — well, let’s just say my answer would have been far from reality. It’s amazing what can change in just two years, let alone five.

As a leader, you’re frequently asked about the so-called “five-year plan” — your vision for the future of your organization. But lately, the way I think about our five-year plan has completely changed.

The Covid-19 pandemic made all of us more aware of uncertainty and how it permeates our lives. At Dwell with Dignity, it forced us to pivot (the most dreaded word of 2020), finding new ways to serve our community safely and stay afloat as an organization. It taught me that the only thing you can truly predict is unpredictability itself.

Now, when I’m asked about my five-year plan, I can’t help but take it with a grain of salt. While I recognize the importance of setting goals and planning ahead of time, there are so many things you can’t plan for as an organization. In fact, I’m realizing that the most important things to plan for are flexibility and resilience.

When I say plan for flexibility, I mean you can’t let your organization get too rigid in its procedures and practices. What’s best for you today might not be best for you in a year or two. When you’re defining your goals as an organization and the strategies you’ll use to get there, leave yourself some wiggle room for the things that are out of your control (like a global pandemic).

Not only will remaining flexible and open-minded make you more nimble in times of uncertainty, but it will also enable you to seize unexpected opportunities. If you’re not willing to explore new pathways for your organization because it’s “not in the five-year plan,” you risk missing out on greater success and innovation.

On the other hand, resilience largely comes down to company culture. Research shows that creating a positive company culture improves retention, increases productivity and boosts sales. The happier your employees are to come to work, the better you’ll perform as an organization. That becomes especially important in times of crisis.

Most companies leave culture out of their five-year plan, but isn’t fostering a positive environment for your employees just as important as hitting your sales targets or donation goals? Dwell with Dignity wouldn’t be where it is today if we didn’t make ongoing investments into our staff. Being a place where people look forward to coming to work, and to volunteer, has made all the difference in the world to our success.

Smart leaders plan for the future with an understanding that things rarely go according to plan. They set ambitious goals, remain flexible and invest in their employees’ well-being.

I may have a vision for my business in five years, but I have a feeling that reality is going to be even better. Here’s to rethinking the five-year plan.

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