Community programs of all sorts are consumed today by planning and implementing programs in a rapidly shifting environment due to the COVID-19 outbreak. But we also need to keep an eye on the future and start planning for the long-range impact of the crisis. Across the long term, the public health crisis is likely to create significant challenges for community programs, which as leaders we need to start planning for now. I have set up a (relatively) quick 4 phase way to do assess your community programs as we move into the “new normal”.
What long-term consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak are you most concerned about in your community programs?
Missed program enrollment targets?
Missed program evaluation targets?
Decline in quality of delivery from abrupt transition to online?
Negative impact of abrupt online transition on participant success goals?
Decline in productivity or quality?
Decline of in-person program participation?
Impact of recession on program funding, fees for programs and hiring?
|Phase||Essential Question||Why It Matters||Action Tool|
Reground and assess
|What is our purpose and what does this mean for how we respond in this moment?||Your mission, vision, and core values can serve as your lens through which you make decisions.||SWOT Analysis Worksheet, Review program goals
|If we only get a few things right over the next few days, weeks, and months, what should they be?||This will push you to sort through both the short and long term, and then focus on the most urgent and high-leverage work that will drive your focus in the weeks ahead.||Priority Matrix Template.
|How will we organize ourselves to ensure we deliver on our priorities?||Break down projects into manageable steps with outlined goals. A project planning template will help you get specific about the tasks, timelines, and tools necessary to drive the work forward.||Easy program planning worksheet|
|How will we connect with others to communicate our plan efficiently, effectively, and with empathy?||Use this tool to identify essential stakeholder groups and plan to connect with them. You’ll plan for the format, frequency, and type of communication each group needs.||Stakeholder engagement worksheet
Phase 1- Reground
Its time to drag out that mission statement- What is our purpose and what does this mean for how we respond in this moment? Your mission, vision, and core values can serve as your lens through which you make decisions. One of the first steps in getting your programs back on track (or not) will be to do a SWOT analysis or informal needs assessment. You may need to “reground” your programs considering social distancing and economic conditions. This could be done through board members, advisory committees or other groups. What are they most concerned about? What are their program needs 3, 6 ,9 months out? Do those needs align with your program goals? Do you have the flexibility to change your program goals? What barriers or threats would prevent you from meeting those needs? Is technology a barrier for your target audience? Are they in a high-risk category that will be unlikely to join in group learning activities?
Phase 2- Prioritize
Taking the quick and easy things off a to-do list is very tempting. But that’s not really a smart way to work. Time management strategies suggest focusing on the most urgent and important items first, even if they’re the hardest!
Former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower came up with the Eisenhower Matrix, also known as the Priority Matrix. The matrix is a decision-making tool that helps you sort through your tasks and ensure that what’s most important doesn’t get pushed aside by the sudden, unexpected, and urgent. It will help you focus on your long-term, overall goals by providing a framework to prioritize what’s important. By analyzing, then separating your tasks into four main quadrants filed under different areas of importance and urgency, it will allow you to plan your time better and to reduce stress. Use this step-by-step guide to fill out your priority matrix:
- To get started, jot down all the tasks and projects you want or need to get done.
- Rate the activities based on their importance and urgency. You can rate them on a scale from 1-4 or use a scale of your choice or a 1-10 scale.
- Now it’s time to add the items to the matrix. Try to limit each quadrant to eight items, to keep it achievable. Remember the goal here is accomplishment!
When you add tasks to Quadrant 2, make sure you schedule a time for them, and include that time to the task in your matrix. This will keep you accountable and help you with your time management.
Quadrant 1: Urgent and important = Do First
The first square is for tasks and projects that are essential to your work. These are things that need to be done first and can’t be pushed back. This might be replying to an important e-mail, finishing a presentation or report. They’re things that will often have negative consequences, if they’re not finished on time.
Quadrant 2: Important, but not urgent = Do Later
The second quadrant is for tasks that are also important, but they don’t need to be finished immediately. Therefore, you should schedule a dedicated time for them. These tasks might include updating your website, meeting with a new partner or reading up on an important topic. These are usually important things for your long-term goals, but get swept aside, when something urgent comes up.
Quadrant 3: Urgent, but not important = Delegate
In the third square, you should list the things that are urgent, but not important and thus can be delegated. These activities might be more important to someone else than they are to you. This might be a colleague asking you to review their report. These tasks can be confused with Q1 tasks. So, make sure to ask yourself, if the task is important for you, or someone else? These tasks could be delegated to someone else, or by enabling the requester to deal with the task themselves.
Quadrant 4: Neither urgent nor important = Eliminate
The final quadrant is for stuff that can be eliminated! These are things you shouldn’t be doing, maybe because they’re not in your plan of work, or because they’re time-wasting activities. In this quadrant, you should add things like Social Media scrolling. You may even find some meetings can be added to this list. If you put them into your matrix, then next time you find yourself starting that task, you’ll remember these are not part of your priorities and let it go.
Once you have completed the priority matrix you may want to try the Effort/Impact matrix to help you to manage your time better and focus on your big goals.
Phase 3- Plan
How will we organize ourselves to ensure we deliver on our priorities? Break down projects into manageable steps with outlined goals. A project planning template will help you get specific about the tasks, timelines, and tools necessary to drive the work forward.
Once the action plan has been developed, arrangement for supplying the necessary inputs, materials, teaching aids, literature etc. must be made and the specific action has to be initiated. The execution of the plan of work is to be done for stimulating individuals and groups to think, act and participate effectively.
Include how you will evaluate the program. The evaluation is done not only of the physical achievements but also of the methods & techniques used and of the other steps in the program planning process, so that the strong & weak points may be identified, and necessary changes may be incorporated accordingly.
Phase 4- Connect
As you map out your individualized communications strategy, use the attached Stakeholder Engagement Worksheet above to help you:
- determine the appropriate communication activities,
- outline the use of messages and other communication tools,
- select the appropriate communication vehicles for each target audience and/or program, project or initiative you are trying to impact, including strategic partners and referral sources, and
- schedule implementation timing and the budget for each audience and/or situation.
Consider the following steps as we transition to a “New Normal”
- Engage in basic scenario planning. Complete the general analysis I’ve provided and customize for your programs, include any revenue and expense impacts.
- Establish a response team or task force. Involve key members, administrative members and marketing/communications employees, as well as other subject-matter experts.
- Communicate with your community regularly. Provide honest and transparent communications with an effort toward sharing your focused attention and resources designed to demonstrate concern for employees and participants and proactive planning.
- Stress self-preservation and hygiene. Launch protocols for hand washing, individual quarantining, less touching and more social distance.
- Tighten finances. Freeze any discretionary spending to conserve cash for unforeseen needs. Examples include nonessential projects, expansion of new programs and the like.
- Demonstrate flexibility by modifying options/formats for completing classes and offering programs.
- Pause some initiatives. Realize that this crisis will require significant leadership or transition time and attention and other efforts may need to go on hold for now.
- Remain calm. By staying on top of the situation, planning properly and supporting key actions, your programs will weather this storm.
We know that our world, country and our community will survive this challenge. My goal is to lay out a tool that may help us think through the options and strategically improve our ability to respond.
In fact, the coronavirus outbreak offers a great opportunity to be proactive and help our communities move forward; it could be a catalyst to create changes in our community programs that are long overdue, such as increasing online teaching capabilities.
For more information about work and finance in Covid-19 check out these blogs;