2020.04.20

Six Tips to Moving Your Strategy Beyond COVID-19

By Philippe Carpentier, Marie-Paule Giguère and Sylvain Hilby

Newsletter

The crisis caused by the corona virus pandemic is forcing many managers and leaders to reconsider their strategic priorities and decisions, and question themselves as to their continued relevance. Many are tempted to set aside their strategic plans. You should however be cautious and take a step back before doing so. Should you be going back to square one or simply adapting your vision and priorities to the new reality?

1.   Not limiting ourselves to a single perspective

It is tempting to limit ourselves to a very short term outlook when we find ourselves in the eye of the storm. Yet, it is certainly preferable to simultaneously consider three different perspectives:

  • Right now: List, prioritize and resolve emerging problems relating to clients, employees and how to maintain operations. Develop various financial scenarios and tightly manage your cashflow.
  • Short term: Plan the relaunching of activities and focus on what needs to be adjusted and what needs to be put in place (e.g. new targeted proposals, etc.)
  • Midterm: Reinvent your activities, proposals and services in line with the “new normal”. You should focus on emerging client needs and problems that require attention: prioritize and devote efforts to two or three promising initiatives.

We firmly believe that businesses will only fare well in the aftermath if they immediately start planning activities respecting all three perspectives rather than focusing all their attention on managing the here and now. We will certainly lose our overall outlook if we focus exclusively on quick decisions and urgent matters.

To illustrate our own experience at Brio, here is how we are addressing issues from all three perspectives.

  • Starting Week 1 of the crisis, we put in place a crisis unit, as many organizations did, to determine actions aimed at resolving immediate issues.
  • In Week 3, we set up another group to assess our short-term priorities and identify three distinct initiatives we wanted to work on. We were driven by the need to be agile and adapt quickly.
  • In Week 4, we began monitoring activities that will, in the medium term, fuel the realignment of our offers and operating methods, in line with the “new normal”.

2.   Seizing the opportunity to speed things up

Working remotely, a concept that is now well established, has increased collaboration and accelerated projects and initiatives which would otherwise have taken months of discussions to develop. Many collaborative work tools such as Teams make it easier for us to carry out creative thinking exercises, even remotely, to parcel out projects, to assign specific tasks and follow up over 7, 14 or 30-day cycles, all the while doing so in a very agile manner.

We believe stand-out businesses are those that will be ahead of the game on strategic initiatives such as moving towards digitalization, innovation and developing their agility. Speeding up certain initiatives will also mean letting go of others that might have been close to heart. A crisis is always a time of choices.

3.   Increasing our value in the eyes of the client

Many businesses are redefining their value propositions and testing them in the marketplace. This may be an opportunity for your organization to do so as well for your own clients and other players in your ecosystem. It is also a good time to take stock of the external environment to identify “weak signals” and take bold actions when such would have been inconceivable just a short while ago.  Will it be necessary to reassess your competitive advantages when the crisis is over?

We believe that stand-out businesses will be those that can improve their added value, remain closely linked with their clients and experiment.

4.   Ensuring cohesion between our brand, mission and values

In the next few months, make sure you don’t lose sight of the fundamentals. During times of crisis, values are tested. In this context, our brand remains a strong asset for clients and employees. It may take on increased significance with added content that is impactful, instructive or simply encouraging to those who may need some support in theses difficult times.

Some brands will be bolstered and others weakened when businesses finally pull out of this crisis. To maintain a strong branding, we believe that whatever actions and interactions with clients and employees you decide to put in place, these measures must remain consistent with your mission and values.

5.   Adopting a more collaborative approach

In these troubled times, fraught with uncertainty, we must more than ever adopt a stance that is collaborative, inclusive, based on co-construction principles, notwithstanding distances which may separate us. This will create meaning when relationships may be difficult to entertain…

There are many who are experiencing the repercussions of the pandemic in their everyday lives. They are taking care of their loved ones and trying to make ends meet. We must stay close to our employees and let them take initiatives and make contributions throughout this crisis to ensure they will remain committed to the organization.

Businesses that will emerge victorious from this crisis are those that will have created an inclusive and participative approach with their employees. Keep in mind that even if we are operating with reduced staffs, remaining employees will remember how their organizations allowed them to contribute during turbulent times.