By: Miles Kailburn

Few events in history have altered life so abruptly than COVID-19. While we’d love to return to normalcy sooner rather than later, we must continue to adjust, tweak and realign our organizations to get through it all. Back in January of this year, we partnered with local StratOp expert Stacey Pearson with Spinnaker Strategies to create our 2020 Strategic Initiatives. In the past, we’ve done our annual planning with frameworks such as 4DX, Traction/EOS and OKR’s with success, but we never really felt we were maximizing the opportunity. A few of us here at OTM sit on boards and had participated in multi-day StratOp planning events in the past and knew it was time to seek external facilitation for this.

StratOp Planning Just Before COVID-19

We spent 3 fantastic (and hard) days with the team and Stacey in January working through about 25 different exercises that built upon each other, defining who we truly were, what defined us, the value we offer our clients and the value they expect from to name a few. As we closed on the third day, we started to map out our Action Initiative Profiles (AIP) (these are essentially company initiatives). We landed on initiatives such as sales growth opportunities, people development and process development. We regrouped in February to put the plan into action. A month later, we realized the world was changing. As COVID-19 started to make its way across the U.S. and local and state municipalities started to close down cities and industries, we knew we needed to stay at the front of things. We met internally as a team and discussed what the upcoming months would look like, industries that would be impacted more than others and how we were positioning ourselves to continue being stewards of our clients and their brands.

Moving Forward With Our Company Initiatives

With some projected “free time”, something our team is not accustomed to, we set out to double down on AIP’s. The first thing we did was review each to see if changes were needed given the changing environment. We found that they were still relevant as ever and would keep us focused on improving 1% better every day. We worked with our clients to understand fully what each one was going through, the hurdles for them to operate, land new work, continue delivering their goods and services and made sure our efforts were in line to best serve their needs.

We recently committed the full AIP team to a full-day StratOp scrub. Having to set aside 6 people for a full day in the middle of COVID was not exactly convenient. It meant proactively coordinating with our clients to have a down day. It also meant working with Larimer County and the City of Fort Collins to ensure we could host an in-person day-long session at our office in a safe and responsible way. A lot of work went into the day before the day ever happened. In the past, we never did mid-year formal reviews of our goals. It’s always been through un-official gut-checks, so we had no idea what to expect. This is where finding a partner such as Stacey Pearson is so key. When you understand the system and the facilitator’s mission, you can trust the process. Trusting the process in these times is convenient and freeing, but it is also a little terrifying. We spent the day starting from the beginning with the “Four Helpful Lists” exercise. We started by laying out what was right, wrong, confused and missing. We worked forward from there, just like we did in January. We went through some additional narrowing exercises to bring focus to areas of opportunity that we could focus on and develop/update our AIP’s for. In the end, we found that we closed out 1 full AIP and added 1 new one. The other AIP’s were left intact with revised deliveries.

The Future of OTM Initiatives Among COVID-19

Since March 10, 2020, the day our Governor declared a state of emergency, not much has changed at OTM. Through careful planning and the internal expectation to be 1% better every day, we continue to focus on delivering campaigns that create meaningful and purposeful experiences for our clients’ audiences. We have not stopped planning for the future, we proactively monitor our client’s environments looking for changes in their world that we need to be aware of and continue to adjust our work to deliver campaigns to best support them in this critical time.

I would encourage you to not sit dormant through this. It is not the time to slow down or pause on planning on long term projects. The world is changing and while we will return to normal, the winners and losers will be chosen by who navigated the crisis effectively.