CEOs rightly focused on tactical execution as we entered the COVID-19 crisis. In a matter of days, company leaders implemented their business continuity plans, dispatched communications to internal and external stakeholders, and braced for a previously unimaginable worldwide shutdown. They made decisions quickly, though painfully.
Leaders will face a very different challenge as they chart the path into and through recovery. They will grapple with many choices having long-term impact on future growth, sometimes with limited relevant data or experience. Companies will need to build agility into their planning and execution processes to ensure the right decisions are being made at the right times.
Sage Partners recommends businesses take these three steps to adjust their strategies and plans and retake control of their futures:
Define the New Normal – Agree on the most important impacts of the crisis on the internal and external business environment to ground strategy development and build alignment within the enterprise
Deconstruct the Uncertainty – As with any other big, complex problem, break the unknowns of the future into smaller pieces that can be attacked strategically
Ignite Growth – Stay highly engaged in rapid recovery initiatives and quickly rebuild plans for growth
Incorporating these aspects into the strategy development process will help businesses to reduce uncertainty, simplify coordination between teams, and chart a path toward future growth. Employees will know what efforts to rally around and feel more confident that they can deliver what is expected of them.
Define the New Normal
The vague term “the new normal” is everywhere. We reject this term that suggests a steady future state is on the horizon. Leadership teams need to create alignment by establishing and communicating to their employees a point of view on how today’s reality differs from the set of internal and external insights that historically drove the business -- and what the implications for the business will be.
Starting the strategy development process with a situation analysis establishes a common set of assumptions that underpin strategy development and planning; leaders will reach decisions more easily and employees will be prepared to act more autonomously.
Some key areas to explore include:
What are we learning from the crisis?
Which of our core business assumptions have changed?
How might industry trends, success factors, and structure be impacted by the crisis?
What are the implications for our target markets, value proposition, product/service offerings and channel priorities?
What do we control? What is outside our control?
Since the post-crisis environment will continue to evolve, leadership should review, update, and re-communicate the situation analysis regularly as new information becomes available.
Deconstruct the Uncertainty
While the COVID-19 crisis feels like one big bomb went off in the economy, simply recognizing that the future is riskier than we previously understood is not particularly actionable. Deconstructing the general uncertainty that we all feel into more specific components and how these create business risk gives leaders a starting place for planning to mitigate each of the threats.
Use tools like scenario planning to convert environmental and opportunity analysis into a plan that addresses multiple possible alternative futures. Develop a dashboard of leading indicators and a set of rapid recovery initiatives.
Growth initiatives may come from fanning the embers of pre-crisis growth projects
or by finding opportunities to innovate generated by “Defining the New” and “Deconstructing the Uncertainty.”
Leaders need to make key decisions while being prepared to react to changes as they occur:
Develop a navigation plan (12-18 month horizon)
Clarify customer, product and market priorities, and set growth objectives.
Identify strategic capabilities to be leveraged, improved or acquired.
Develop a process to monitor and respond to threats.
Implement a nimble business review program, including a process for tracking progress and results.
Develop a change management plan.
Consider carving out a role, team, or regular staff meeting focused on growth to help the organization shift from crisis mode.
The world is entering a new era. We'll all need a strategic reboot to align with the new normal, to address the uncertainties faced, and potentially operate with fewer resources to invest in growth.
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