Strategizing in Turbulent Times
An Age-Old Habit
We all employ strategies going about our lives: a plan to lose 10 pounds, best way to get my teen to write her college essay, or managing a family health crisis. Today, in the midst of a dangerous pandemic, we’ve learned to strategically weigh the risks involved in shopping, getting a tooth fixed or visiting a grandparent. Strategy actually comes naturally to the human race. Strategy, combined with grit, determination and innovation, has allowed the human race not just to survive but actually to thrive. But that pesky human race wouldn’t be walking the earth today if they hadn’t learned to embrace change, adapt and devise a new strategy.
Your strategy should start by clearly and concisely communicating your business vision, mission and priorities to all stakeholders. A winning strategy requires you to be open to change, step outside of your comfort zone and put aside your fears. A successful strategy will help you move forward with confidence, knowing you have minimized risk and maximized opportunity.
Establishing a Road Map
A strong strategy may never be more important than when you are managing change. Change is inevitable and your organization will need to respond quickly and appropriately. A good strategy will help determine the impact of the change event, determine the key assumptions that need to be changed, evaluate the most appropriate response, and serve as a platform to communicate effectively with the organization. A strong strategy together with the APEL framework allows your organization to ask the right "what" and "how" questions to customize the appropriate response for any change event.
Using your strategy to manage change creates confidence and credibility with shareholders and the organization, while paving the way for successful and purposeful execution. It’s important to note that because change is constant, your strategic plan must be a living, breathing document. Customer needs and interests will eventually change. Your business strategy should be able to shift and change as well.
An organization’s strategy should provide clear and concise information including:
Communication to stakeholders (employees, customers and community) on the vision and mission of the company.
Identification of the values considered most important by the company.
An explanation of how the company will work with all stakeholders (which may include investors, the board, employees, customers, the community).
Key priorities the organization must deliver over the short and mid term while also highlighting what won’t be prioritized.
A series of business/functional roadmaps so that limited and valuable resources are focused and prioritized.
Clarification of how the company will differentiate itself, identifying the unmet needs of customers and the products and services it will establish.
A system to describe and monitor key business plan metrics in support of the strategy.
A set of documented key assumptions that can be monitored and managed as the market, competition and economy changes.
Say It Again and Again and Again
Regardless of their role in the organization, people crave information, especially about how changes will specifically impact them. Change unsettles employees and other stakeholders which can adversely impact effective strategy execution. During a change event you will need to communicate your strategy with all stakeholders repeatedly. This is not a one-time speech you’ll make at the annual meeting. You’ll need a coordinated communications plan to introduce the vision, mission and strategy using various formats such as town halls, focused group meetings, emails, etc. Your plan should include time to build buy-in by listening to feedback and incorporating/updating the key strategy elements where it makes sense. Regular progress updates should be provided along with additional feedback sessions to ensure continued two- way communication between leaders and the team. A strategy that is not effectively communicated will limit the potential of any business to reach best-in-class performance. However, a strategy that is understood and embraced by all will often create great organizational culture and produce amazing results. It is evident that changes in priorities, roadmaps, business metrics and more are already happening in 2020. We know the world will look a lot different when the coronavirus pandemic is behind us. How will you adapt? Sound business analysis and a solid plan will help you course correct and respond to changing business dynamics. Step with confidence from your strategy into the wind and find your “new normal”, as you steer your business through challenges and capture unexpected opportunities.