In general, 2016 kinda sucked.
I mean, there were some good things that happened. Captain America: Civil War was released. As was Rogue One, Deadpool, Star Trek: Beyond (I liked it), Doctor Strange…you know – decent movies. People were married and people were born, which I assume made several folks happy.
But there are a lot of you out there who have expressed your overall disgust with 2016. Too many amazing talents died (David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Gene Wilder, Garry Shandling, Arnold Palmer, John Glenn….it’s a depressingly long list). X-Men Apocalypse was released (good lord, that was awful). Discriminatory laws were passed around the nation, and then we went through that godawful presidential election that has left so many people in fear and despair for the future, or at the very least – not optimistic.
I think this tweet pretty much sums it up:
So who’s excited for 2017?
I am. But I’m not walking in with my eyes closed. I’m going to be prepared.
Glitchpath shared an approach that I think will work for 2017 – I’m going to do a premortem for my year. But I’m going to keep the scope small. I can’t worry about celebrities and movies (please don’t suck, Episode IIX or Dark Tower), so I’m going to focus on my workplace.
After thinking through that premortem, I’m building a contingency plan for things I think might happen so I’m ready for when they totally do. This isn’t a complete list (that would be a book), but I can bucket some of the areas of potential failure. This helps me think through a game plan to be ready for next year.
- Potential Failure #1: Employee Issues
Let’s face it. Employees are great, but they bring on all sorts of variables that will throw your workplace into a tizzy. It could be performance issues, interpersonal issues, illness, turnover, business changes, etc. It’s a lot to plan for.
Contingency plan: Document all processes and cross-train as much as possible. Seriously, have a backup for your backups. Teach your team conflict management techniques (an no, that doesn’t mean “pretend it never happened”). Next, have open career goal discussions with each member of the team – are you happy? do you want to stay? if you stay, what can we help you do better? Be sure to set clear expectations with the team so there are no surprises. Work hard to cultivate a culture of trust and flexibility.
- Potential Failure #2: Internal Customers
Bless their hearts. We’re all on the same side, but for some reason, internal customers will occasionally go off the deep end and take you off the rails. They go around you to complain to those above you. Or they spread vague rumors about perceived problems. Issues can include unreasonable expectations, lack of response, not following the process, change in their business needs, budget constraints, etc.
Contingency plan: Build some good relationships. Create a responsive, adaptive, consistent communication cadence for all customers. Know your process and understand what you can and cannot compromise in the name of customer service. Share your process with your customers and outline roles and responsibilities on both sides.
- Potential Failure #3: Executive Leadership
You’ll notice that I put this group outside of internal customers. While executive leadership IS usually an internal customer, their real impact is greater because they are making decisions that touch on everything you do – how decisions are made, what can be communicated when, policy decisions, budgeting decisions, etc. There are so many potential pitfalls that I can’t possibly list them. They are legion.
Contingency plan: Find allies on the leadership team and build strong relationships. Leverage these relationships to learn about potential hidden agendas to help you navigate the politics of the situation. Develop an effective dashboard that quickly and easily communicates what’s happening in your team to leadership so you can build credibility and visibility. KEEP YOUR BOSS IN THE LOOP AT ALL TIMES. (Nobody likes to be blindsided. Nobody.) And worst case scenario – win Powerball.
No, this isn’t an exhaustive list. There will still be crappy times ahead, and I can’t possibly plan for everything that can happen. Hopefully it gives you some idea of how I’m approaching 2017. I’m being proactive and cagey, instead of reactive and quick on my feet. I want to feel in control in 2017, rather than feeling like I survived the year.
So don’t mess with me, 2017. I know what I’m doing.
One thought on “2017 and the need for a plan”