When dealing with chaos caused by the COVID pandemic, leaders must act decisively and quickly. Strategic pivots are often necessary to keep a firm grip on problems brought by COVID, which often include employee difficulties working from home, supply chain disruptions, and canceled orders. Here are five strategies you need to use for successful COVID strategic pivots.
Reassess Business Model Assumptions
Start by listing the issues you’ve faced to reassess assumptions about the company’s business model.
For instance, a manufacturing startup faced the new problem of selling its high-tech products. They didn’t have trouble before the pandemic because they were known for high quality, and operations managers demanded their products.
However, as the pandemic took hold, the startup’s salespeople noticed that customers had to clear several hurdles before approving a purchase. Most notably, accounting departments demanded lower-cost options unless operations managers could prove that the startup’s products brought sufficient ROI.
That’s where the problem was centered. Though the startup heavily focused on innovation, it didn’t offer a direct ROI measurement tool.
Due to this, some customers had to choose cheaper alternatives. That surprised company executives, who were eager to reassess their assumptions and implement tools to counteract customers’ new policies.
Gather Critical Internal Information
After examining business model assumptions, ask department heads to gather internal information critical to revising business strategy. This includes feedback from direct reports on ways their department’s goals, structure, and customer relationships could be revised. Ask them to challenge assumptions based on each of the following scenarios:
- Scenario one: A vaccine with over 90% effectiveness would be found by Spring of 2021, and the pandemic will mostly be over by Spring of 2022
- Scenario two: A vaccine would be found by Spring of 2022, and the pandemic would mostly be over by Spring of 2023
- Scenario three: A vaccine more effective than 50% would not be found, just like we haven’t found a vaccine more effective than that for the flu.
Go On A Virtual Retreat
Conduct a two-day strategic retreat, in-person or virtual. Spend Day One on broad strategy, and Day Two on adapting operational strategy.
Since the high-tech manufacturing startup was focused on innovation pre-pandemic, its team had a hard time accepting the new reality of marketplace demands.
The team kept dodging the idea of changing from innovation to ROI measurement because innovation was such a cornerstone of its identity. CEO vigilantly steered them back to the correct course and managed to facilitate a productive discussion.
A SaaS company with over 500 employees, wanted to address the fact that employees were experiencing work-from-home burnout. What they didn’t realize was that such problems originate from many other factors than simply working from home, such as:
- Mental health challenges brought about by the pandemic
- Pragmatic challenges related to COVID, such as juggling work with caring for family members
- Social isolation
- Changes in routine
- Loss of outside hobbies, entertainment, and exercise
- Poor virtual communication and collaboration skills
- Missing the sense of fulfillment, meaning, and purpose that work previously provided
It’s disconcerting that most of us don’t realize that what we’re feeling isn’t just work-from-home burnout. In fact, we don’t seem to recognize what it is we’re missing.
Dealing with this issue doesn’t just mean providing funding for home office setup or allowing flexible working hours. Companies must also facilitate professional development in effective virtual communication and collaboration, as well as emotional and social intelligence.
Operationalize The New Strategy
On Day Two of your retreat, focus on operationalizing the strategic changes to the business model. Address potential threats and opportunities for different future scenarios. Revise the new strategy from Day One, if needed.
Here’s how one startup seized a pandemic opportunity: An enterprise data analytics company identified a way to secure promising client accounts held by several competitors.
The startup’s leadership team noted that most competitors brushed off concerns about COVID. So, it decided to woo these competitors’ clients by changing strategy to show the steps it took to become pandemic proof—in stark contrast to competitors. The startup successfully converted a surprising number of new customers.
Implement & Check Regularly
At the close of the retreat, identify next steps for each new initiative, resources required, and establish metrics for success. Assign one leader to roll out the initiative and provide regular progress reports. Lastly, prepare a detailed report for the Board of Directors.
Hold regular status updates, ideally during weekly leadership team meetings. Evaluate the strategy’s progress during a half-day meeting a month after the retreat, and adjust as required. Schedule another follow-up meeting after three months.
5 Key Strategies for Strategic Pivots
- Start by challenging assumptions
- Have top leaders gather internal information from direct reports
- Conduct a two-day retreat, in-person or virtual, to focus on strategy and operationalization
- Commit to next steps, identifying resources needed, metrics of success, leadership point person, and report to the Board
- Provide status updates weekly, and a half-day progress check and course correction after one and three months.
Taking these steps for strategic pivots will help steer your company toward thriving–not just surviving–these troubled times.
About The Author
Bio: An internationally-renowned thought leader known as the Disaster Avoidance Expert, Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is the best-selling author of Never Go With Your Gut and Resilience: Adapt and Plan for the New Abnormal of the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic, all based on his expertise of over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training as the CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts and over 15 years in academia as a behavioral economist and cognitive neuroscientist.
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