COVID-19 has affected even the most successful and stable of enterprises, causing confident and seasoned business owners to experience uncertainty and ambiguity regarding decisions which have to be made that can have impacts for years to come. Nonetheless, when facing unprecedented and uncertain times filled with cascading impacts on businesses, industries and communities it is imperative that leaders not lose sight of the big picture, be prepared to be agile as conditions unfold and implement strategic approaches that enable their organizations to maintain and grow market share.
There is a subtle but important difference between being agile and responsive versus reactive to unprecedented and sustained disruptive events. In addition to ensuring your organization has a robust long term strategy that speaks to a 3 year horizon (Heightened Awareness of the Obvious | PKA, 2020), PulvermacherKennedy and Associates (PKA) recommend adopting a pandemic-fit agile approach to strategy. Reviewing and optimizing strategy at frequent intervals will enable your organization to mitigate emerging threats and harness ever evolving opportunities (Kennedy, 2020).
Considering the rapidly shifting landscape, generating and optimizing an adaptive strategy may not be the best achieved using traditional or rigid strategic frameworks. Conducting a SWOT analysis, reviewing financials and monitoring competitor activity is still important, but what becomes more front and centre is assessing the shifting business environment and making sure that you are able to maintain stability. Business models are in a state of flux, and client/customer needs are evolving on a daily basis, so staying alert and keeping a vigilant eye on the marketplace for opportunities to adapt and stay ahead of the pack is essential. This translates to staying in touch with customers and staff, soliciting opinions, and searching for facts.
Revisiting strategy more frequently enables business leaders to review and, if needed, reframe their understanding of the environment and making reasonably rapid strategic adjustments (Reeves, Lang and Carlsson-Szlezak, 2020). Evaluating the success of implementation, questioning approaches and the examining assumptions during frequent strategic reviews empowers leaders to take corrective action swiftly. By focusing attention during strategic reviews, organizations can also encourage their teams to develop a hyper-awareness of existing and emerging competitors.
Furthermore, examining the organization’s current processes and ensuring they are congruent with a continuously evolving ‘organic’ approach to strategy (Spruit, Dixon and Campbell, 2020), will help propel the business forward even in these uncertain times.
PKA recommends the following practical considerations when adopting an agile approach to strategy: