The 2021 Theme is: Unlocking Opportunities: You are the key

The annual theme helps provide a lens to take learning from the past and take into the future. Possibly more than ever before we enter a new year with a level of uncertainty that we haven’t experienced before; however, have we ever been certain?

Disruption, volatility, uncertainty, complexity, turbulent, unique, novel, ambiguity have all existed. This new level of disruption has given us the permission to say, “we don’t know what we are doing” and search for new ideas and approaches, where previously we may have accepted the status quo. 

Theme Context
This year we did not want to focus on all the words I’ve just mentioned but the opportunity, the chances, the hope. Not the false hope, or the putting a positive spin of the situation but the genuine opportunity that we all have.

In the last 12-months we will have all had the opportunity to do something different, at some point we would have been given permission to feel empowered to make a change. 

Yes, we’ve all been "done to" this year and had restrictions imposed on us, there are some things that are much bigger than us like Pandemics and Government imposed Lockdowns, however these constraints and limitation often force us to think and act differently which leads to innovation.

Just think about the pre-Covid world when you could do anything each evening, yet you chose the comfort of your home and stayed in. Then, during Lockdown 1 April & May when we limited to of the hour exercise, we all used it – and we said hello to everyone, asking strangers how they are (or maybe that was just me). The limit of 1-hour of exercise, meant we did this, yet when there was no limit, we didn’t use it.

There are many business examples where start-ups, with limited budgets have overtaken large corporations with almost unlimited budgets, just research disruptive innovation, or even reverse innovation.

There is no doubt that too many constraints can almost paralyze thinking, however some limits stimulate the mind to rethink and become more creative. 

Unlocking Opportunities
For this year’s theme we wanted to embrace the opportunity we have now to be apart of not just steering ourselves and our businesses through this to survive (though hugely important), but to build the foundations for the future. Let’s look back on 2020 and 2021 and the COVID-19 pandemic as a positive turning point for a better enriched life. When you look back on this era, what do you want to tell your Grandchildren? You can shape your story. 

Traditionally, turning 21 meant you got the key to the door and the privilege to come and go as you please.

During the initial lockdown, March 2020, organisations needed to respond to something we had never experienced on this scale before. In some instances, this gave you the privilege to do some things that you hadn’t had the privilege of doing before.

The more we are trusted the more autonomy we are given.

In many respects the community came of age during 2020. The topics and themes we have been working on, as a community to develop best practice and future orientated business practices are been allowed to happen.

Last year, 2020 The Forum turned 20 and we spoke of how our knowledge had become crystalised. 20 years of best practice learning from the past and developing new methods and approaches to continue raising standards. As we turn 21 we want to continue building on the foundations of the past, whilst embracing the changing future environment.

  • Disruption has created change, which has provided acceleration of change and opportunities to introduce new ways of working, breaking old habits and traditional thinking.
  • Harnessing the power of technology to redefine customer journeys and create meaningful work with a respectful culture. People are at the heart of driving and embedding change.
  • Being personal and understanding the difference and power of each individual.

Loading 2021 
The reality is that disruption will remain during 2021, there is a strong chance that there will be an even faster rate of disruption this year as we manage all the “quick-fixes” and temporary responses of 2020, whilst we continue to react, anticipating the next move and build for the future. 

It is a bit like a Windows operating system computer, lots of great updates, but the necessity for lots of shutdowns and reboots. An update or change to one application has an unknown negative effect on another and can often take a few re-starts before you feel the benefit.

This realty will remain as we continue to react to changing circumstances whilst managing the downstream effect of 12-months of quick fixes and reactive change.

Fortunately, more than ever before the value of Planning, Insight and Quality has been demonstrated. These aren’t skills that can be done off the side of a desk, or by an enthusiastic amateur when they have the time. These are critical core skills, the foundations for leaders during both good and challenging times.

We’ve spoken to many members who were able to lead, drawing on their experience and the experience of others, from 21 years of best practice, case studies, best practice guides and homeworking guides, the Planning for Covid-19 webinar. This was a time to learn, share and transform. Being open to sharing what you are doing and absorbing the collective knowledge of the wider network.

Why We Choose A Different Theme Every Year?

New Year, New Theme. We use a new theme every year and while it means that we have a new cover for the Best Practice Guide and updated slides in our presentations it is more important than that. It is an opportunity for us to focus on a new way of working or collaborating with others. The 2021 theme is Unlocking Opportunities: You are the key. 

I want to highlight some of the themes we have used in the past as we launch the theme for 2021. 

2011: Expand your horizon. This theme was chosen as a way to help us break down some siloes in our business and to look at new areas, we could work in. We can look past our own role and work with other members of our own team to improve our overall performance by communicating and understanding better. We can improve relationships with other areas of the business such as IT or marketing and work together with operations rather than everyone thinking of their own interests. This is the year when we had our first awards entry from a planning team who were taking their skills into new areas of the business outside the contact centre with Autoglass winning the Innovation of the Year for their planning in the field.

2013: Putting people first. The focus this year was on moving towards thinking more about what we now call wellness. Moving away from thinking about the numbers we need and more about how we can understand the needs of our people to help them find a real purpose in their role. More of our Awards case studies involved listening to the advisors on the front-line to hear what our customers were telling us and giving them more ownership and control.

2014: Bridge the gap. We always have plans for where we want to improve and change. We often have a target to show we have reached that point. As a team, though, do we agree on where we are now? In this guide we looked at the Five Steps to Success. The first of which is being honest about our starting point by Defining the Gap. A Roadmap, Teamwork and using the Great Support around us help with Bridging the Gap, not forgetting to Close the Loop to review our progress.

2018: Be Your Personal Best. We often face obstacles when we try to change or improve. In 2018 our theme focussed on what we can each do as individuals in the team. If we focus on our own performance and work towards improvements every day then we can help the team and the business make small improvements, which lead to bigger changes.

2020: 2020 Vision. We celebrated our 20th Anniversary by thinking ahead and crystallising the knowledge we already have. 2020 was not the year we expected it to be, that 2020 vision may not have helped us plan for the year in the end but using the knowledge we already had turned out to be invaluable. Support teams across our businesses really stepped to the fore in 2020, proving that we are agile and flexible and demonstrating the value we add to the business.

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