Managing Smart: Planning and Goal Setting in Uncertainty

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

By Lisandra “Liz” Suarez, Senior Director, Organizational Development and Human Resources

Happy new “planning and goal setting” time of the year!

Usually, for supervisors, the beginning of the calendar year is the time for leaders to begin planning the strategies and tasks that align with the work ahead for the year for functional divisions. Ideally, these are tied to collegewide goals. Also, it is the time to begin or complete the beginning or mid-year Check-In or Faculty Evaluations for ourselves and our direct reports.

It will be a disfavor not to address the obvious. How do we plan and set goals in the current uncertain and volatile environment with so many variables impacting the way planning and goal setting must be done? It simply feels that we need a plan and a goal to set a plan and a goal.

The following are four simple steps to tackle such overwhelming tasks, nowadays, in a way that may eliminate unnecessary complexity and the overpowering feelings the planning and goal-setting process may cause you.

Step 1: Block time on your calendar for short-term planning and long-term planning (about two hours minimum).

There are three simple questions you should ask during this step process which are are strategic and overarching:

  • Where are we?
  • Where are we trying to be short term?
  • Where are we trying to be long term?

To that end, it is wise to review the previous year’s plan for unfinished important goals, current division notes and collegewide plans in progress. View the following articles on The Grove to provide a full picture of the path.

Upon completing the review, proceed with creating two main goals and one developmental goal, maximum. Maintain these in draft format. Remember to consider how an unfinished goal from the previous plan year may impact the creation of new goals moving forward. Keep it SMART.

 Step 2: Reflect on how to capitalize on available resources to reach the goals.

Two questions to ask in this step are:

  • Who is most talented to do the work?
  • What would the team need to do the work?

You may be surprised about these questions; however this strategy has to do with focusing and capitalizing on human capital resources (talent) vs. time and financial resources only. The logic here is that the best talented individual(s) at any task will use less time, thus less stress, more productivity and less cost.

During step two, it is also critical to self-evaluate and to identify your own areas of leadership development. This is of paramount importance as we are leading others in challenging times. Need to learn more about this topic? Watch this course on LinkedIn Learning.

For an overall review of goal setting and performance management, watch this course in LinkedIn Learning. 

Create drafts of the short-term and long-term plan. Additionally, begin drafts of your own Check-In goals and/or updates to be delivered later to your direct reports.

Step 3: Discuss the overall idea and focus for the plan and goal setting with your supervisor, partners (as applicable) and direct reports.

Discussing the drafts with others involved in the plan helps address gaps in the plan, find intersections in the work, learn about other available potential resources and obtain new information and collaborative perspective.

A key viewpoint here is to allow space for flexibility with the plan and goals. Plan and goals are for the most part artificial structures created to provide guidance and to keep the work moving ahead. Building flexibility in timelines and other ways to accomplish the work is paramount, especially in uncertain times.

Step 4: Finalize the drafts and move onward.

The plan and goal-setting process under uncertainty is mainly a guide to maintain all parties involved in the vision and mission of the institution while helping operations run as smoothly as possible. As the environment (internal or external) stabilizes, leaders can update and modify the plans and goals.

As always, members of the Organizational Development and Human Resources Team (ODHR) in your ODHR Regional Solution Centers are available to assist and lead you in engaging in the planning and goal-setting process. If you have questions, contact us at or call the HR4U helpline at 407-299-5000, extension HR4U (4748).

Happy planning and goal setting!


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