What is the difference between a contingency plan and a pivot plan?

A brightly lit Ferris wheel spins as it stands against the evening sky.
Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash

I think it is safe to say that there are not many people who worked on their 2020 plans without some level of revision. While a few industries were positioned to excel during this disruption, many struggled to maintain consistency, while even more had to completely change their business models. Our hearts go out to those businesses who had to hunker down and close their doors hoping they will be able to open them again in the not-too-distant future.

Contingency plan — Spare tire and tools in the car in case of flat.

Pivot plan — There might be a spare tire, but who knows if it’s flat too or if there are tools to put it on.

The successful industries fell into two categories: those that were going to be needed no matter how ineffective or non-existent their strategy and contingency plans, and those who thrived because they were prepared.

Being prepared is a combination of planning, predicting, and positioning.

In 2020, I spent anywhere between an hour and 6 hours a day in virtual meetings, usually via Zoom. It was evident that most people never expected to work from home. If you were one of the people new to working from home, just realizing you don’t even have a webcam, you were far behind the curve. So there are also varying levels of need for your pivot plan. If you try to play too much catch up, you’ll just be getting caught up by the time everyone else is back up and running.

A contingency plan is preferred, however, since we don’t have 20/20 vision into the future, and we can only guess what it holds. That said, the more accurate we can make our guesses the better. Furthermore, it is not a bad idea to have a pivot plan as part of your contingency plans. When all else fails, your pivot plan will essentially be your catch-all. That said, if you’re already deep into reaction mode don’t try to go back and do contingency planning. Work on a pivot plan, and incorporate it into contingency plans when you get back to the new normal.

The term “pivot” in business strategy was originally associated with startups. As startups test theories about what they think customers will want they may need to make pivots as new information is learned or original assumptions are proven untrue. As we move into a new era of digital, global connection, overpopulation, and fast rate of change you can expect the uncertainty of the future to increase and for all businesses, regardless of their size or level of maturity, to pivot occasionally. The term already became widely used once COVID-19 forced everyone into uncharted territory.

Be sure to research and check your pivot ideas. It’s really easy to get stuck in a bubble thinking you’ve got this great idea and someone else is already doing it. That’s not to say you can’t move forward, but you’ll need to ensure that your quick maneuver is needed, is relevant, and appeals to the right people.

Hang In There! Don’t forget to download your copy of H.I.T. Pivot Planning Guide. 7 Pages that walk you through a series of questions and steps to help you stop making guesses and make something that will have an impact! Download here.

Stay gold!

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Laura Thorne

A follow-your-heart in multiple directions person. I love cats, super sweet non-dairy coffee, travel, and 80s flix. I write about personal and prof development.