Looking Back to Look Ahead
2020 was supposed to be Common Giant’s year of focus. We were positioning to scale, which, at times feels nearly impossible for a creative agency. No one can say 100% that plans would have come to fruition, but it felt promising. So…how do you plan strategically in a pandemic? As I reviewed last year’s plan in preparation for writing 2021’s, I saw shades of a former way of life. Shades of a past that assumed certain things could be assumed. We targeted KPIs, dedicated ourselves to finding our niche, and hoped to build and diversify our client portfolio. It was a very good attempt in a very bad year. Strategic planning in a pandemic sounds challenging, luxurious, and maybe even plain silly. But I’m not geared otherwise.
Over these past few months, I’ve digested the same conflicting emotions and stresses everyone else has. I’ve experienced boredom, yet felt restless. I’ve wanted purpose, yet fought off aimlessness. I’ve felt lonely, yet yearned for escape. This year will be a defining one for our country and the world. For the small space of 2021 that Common Giant inhabits, we achieve so much not only to contribute to our economy, but also to provide emotional and creative fulfillment through our work and our relationships, both within our team and with our clients.
Leading with Nudges
At least for a while, I do not predict that this year will look terribly different from last year. I don’t want to predict that we’ll hit imaginary revenue goals, although we will still imagine them and strive for them. This year, we’ll focus on the nudges that can lead us down the right path. We’ll narrow strategies down to months at a time. Rather than lose sleep over lag measures, we’ll focus on key lead measures. In other words, keep plans snackable and attackable. I almost always write plans with three areas in mind: marketing (revenue), operations (efficiency), and culture. We’ll look to the lead measures that can result in new business, enable delivery, and nurture our creative intuition.
I haven’t spent any level of lockdown without a sense of time twisting and warping. What we do with our most precious asset is much less up to us today than it was only a year ago. But within those necessary boundaries, we can aim to feel effective, to feel helpful, to feel skilled, and mostly, to feel present. A strategic plan equates to nothing more than a vehicle for desired outcomes. But this year, our plan does not expose some great financial destination whereby we measure our competence. Our strategies outlined for 2021 serve as headlights for revealing the short paces directly in front of us, so that we may weather the greater distance.