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Corporate planning concerns

/ 04:01 AM December 15, 2020

The traditional countdown to Christmas (or the holiday season for those who want to make the event religion neutral) by Filipinos starts tomorrow with the seven-day early morning Mass, a practice unique to the Philippines.

By this time, most businesses would have made their plans or programs for the coming year.

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In prepandemic days, corporate planning (corplan) was usually done in the latter part of November or early December when the operations and financial data for the earlier months were already in.

Depending on the availability of funds, the planning sessions were conducted either out of town or in the office premises on weekends.

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This arrangement gave the participants the opportunity to discuss business issues without time or work constraints. The face-to-face meeting enabled them to freely air their comments on the way things were done earlier and how to go forward.

But with strict measures on social distancing being enforced by the government and, most importantly, for the protection of its participants, this annual business ritual has had to make some adjustments.

Today, corplan discussions have to be either “virtual” or “hybrid.”

Under these circumstan­ces, the success of the corplan depends a lot on the ability of the facilitator to motivate the participants into actively taking part in the proceedings and differentiating statements from agreed courses of action.

In the latter case, if the proceedings are recorded, separating the chaff from the grain, so to speak, would be easy because the video can be rerun for that purpose.

If they’re not (which would be quite unusual considering the ease by which internet-based recordings can be done), the participants have to rely on the accuracy of the notes of whoever has been tasked with taking down the minutes of the meeting.

In the hands of a skillful facilitator, those procedural matters are manageable. There are technological gizmos in the market that can address them with relative ease.

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The bigger challenge in today’s corplan is making a reasonable forecast of how business in the country would operate in an atmosphere of uncertainty and how things will pan out with COVID-19 still a grave health issue.

Although the incidence of the virus infection appears to have diminished, there is a chance the Philippines could get hit by a second wave and the government imposing another lockdown to contain it.

Note that two developed countries, Australia and Japan, got hit by a second wave in spite of strict health measures and adequate medical facilities. If the Philippines (knock on wood) finds itself in a similar situation, the results could be worse than what we are going through at present.

True, a vaccine has been found that could immunize people from the virus. But when that vaccine can be made available to Filipinos or whether the government has the money to procure an ample supply are big question marks.

It is standard in corplans to make a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of the business to guide it in planning for the future.

This analysis is critical because plans or action programs should be based on a realistic assessment of business issues that may be encountered later so the proper measures can be taken to minimize, if not eliminate, its possible adverse effects on the business.

Depending on the nature of the business, COVID-19 may be considered a weakness and at the same time a threat that has to be forcefully addressed or contained next year.

Should substantial sums of money be held in reserve to meet the contingency of a second wave of COVID-19 at the expense of expansion plans? How should the staff be deployed in case the government orders another lockdown?

The dictum “hope for the best but plan for the worst” applies squarely to businesses that are now doing their corplan.

Good luck! INQ

For comments, please send your email to [email protected]

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