By any standard, we are in very uncertain times. The world is coping with the health aspects of a pandemic as well as from the related economic fallout. If that were not enough, we are in the middle of an election cycle with elements from either extreme acting like children.
Caught in the middle we have the regular folks just trying to make a living, grow a business, or make sure they are doing the best they can for their team.
Under times of stress like this, it’s easy to just focus on the pressing issues at hand. And there are LOTs of pressing issues to address (PPP, restructurings, expense cuts, and even making sure we have proper IT support for our remote workers, to name a few). In addition to calls for more innovation, leaders are also being told to don’t forget to be strategic. But in times of uncertainty like these, is it really useful to be spending valuable time and resources on 5 year plans, BHAGS, moon shots and the like?
I think the times call for a middle ground approach. We cannot simply focus on day to day tactics, nor can we simply go through the motions of the same old strategy setting approach we may have taken in the past. You can call this middle ground what you like (maybe “strata-tactical”??), but it needs to work for today’s environment, which is fast-moving with a high degree of uncertainty and disruption.
A new world requires new rules. Below are three I believe are essential to getting prepared for the future.
FORMULATE FAST AND TEST. We all know the wisdom of the adage “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” This wisdom also applies to the creation of strategy. It is hard to win a race with a poor start, no matter how fast the runner. The best strategies will be formed quickly, tested in the real world, and revised. Mike Tyson observed “Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the face.” If our plans can ’t take one on the chin, it’s valuable to find that out quickly and make the right adjustments.
DITCH THE ANALYSIS THEATER. While we are all familiar with the downsides of analysis paralysis, we can still fall for analysis theater. Analysis theater is making things look more analytical than they really are. It may also include use of data to get to a predetermined destination. With appropriate time horizons and leaders with a good handle on their business in the room, most strategies will not be materially better even with the addition of page after page of powerpoint slide data.
USE NEW SCREENS TO EVALUATE SUCCESS CRITERIA Market dominance is always about size, until it isn’t. Think about companies like Sears, Blockbuster, Toys R Us and many others who were dominant in their space until they weren’t. Now, more than ever, key characteristics of success strategies must take into account speed, flexibility, and even disruption and volatility. If the key factors of your strategy are not creating advantage in terms of speed, responsiveness, and yes even disruption, then your organization will be at a disadvantage to both changing circumstances and competitive forces.
We have all adopted new tools (like Zoom and MS Teams) to be effective in this new world. We can’t stop there. We need to continue to look for new ways to do things better, and that includes improving how we approach the basics like strategy, innovation, and people development.
PS If you would like to see the other 4 New Rules for Effective Strategy and help you get set for what’s next, click here for the PDF.
PPS…and if you want more ideas on how to apply more business creativity to your challenges, join me for a FREE WEBINAR, Raising the Bar: Leading Practical Innovation in Today’s Environment. CLICK HERE for details and registration.