The Art of Creating a Proactive, Aligned Strategy Fit for Future Growth

In May 2021, the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Report stated that how UK businesses respond to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic will define the future economy. While the inference here is that businesses have been ill-prepared and, in some instances, decimated by the economic fallout, it does not tell the whole story.

Of course, it’s clear to see there have been losers and winners as well as businesses somewhere in between, but the exact impacts and rates of recovery and change vary according to industry. Not every business has managed to fulfil the demands of customers. Some were caught by surprise and failed to scale in time. Others struggled with supply chains and logistics. Many businesses toiled with reactive strategies enabling them to tread water at best. Now organisations face a new challenge; they must determine how to capitalise on the opportunities of changing markets.

Businesses are typically used to managing one disruptive influence at a time, but they now need to deal with rapid externally driven changes with little or no time to prepare before the next disruptor hits.

So, how can organisations better prepare for black swan events or just about any other obstacle thrown in their path?

Debbie Bowen-Heaton, Partner at Business Growth Consultancy Oliver Wight EAME identifies three key strategies to reset business processes and drive future growth.

  1. Analyse

It’s now time to take stock and start asking questions to understand the impacts of the past 12 to 18 months and identify the missed opportunities and potential disruption in the immediate to long-term future. Only then can you understand where you want to go and what you need to do to get there.

What did the pandemic teach us about ourselves as businesses, as well as our value chains and markets? The sudden shock factor of change will have exposed us all in one way or another. Have you papered over the cracks? If so, it would be a mistake to think that your business is in the clear.

Agility and resilience are two keywords to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis. Understanding the past so you can plan for the future is fundamental to delivering the necessary changes to drive your business forward.

  1. Redefine

Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of your business position and your key challenges, you can start to build a plan for change. For many, this means returning to basics; recalibrating challenges, aspirations, and direction to understand the business better, create alignment, and prioritise competing opportunities.

Full leadership alignment is non-negotiable. Without it, coordinated change will never happen. It is paramount that leaders share the same vision and are united in their strategic goal.

Many businesses struggle with this, so where do you start?

I advise my clients to ensure the focus is on common goals and the key facets of the business that are required to achieve them. People, especially leaders, need to be presented with an evidence-based understanding of the impact of every decision in the plan.

  1. Transform 

Once the business believes in a shared vision, it’s important to identify the key, practical considerations to deliver on it.

What needs to be done to create new opportunities and maintain good relationships with your existing customers? How can you ensure you meet your fulfilment obligations and scale your operations accordingly?

Modern business-planning processes such as Integrated Business Planning and Enterprise Business Planning are ideal when it comes to balancing the leadership vision with the practical formalities of the business. These processes ensure the business works as one with the flexibility to respond to unexpected crises or scale operations to meet the needs of a new customer.

For a true and sustainable transformation of your business, a culture change is vital. If this does not happen, the plan for change will not be successfully implemented throughout the entire organisation. Culture not only needs to be developed but, most importantly, nurtured. Leaders must be disciplined in how they make this work with everyday practicalities, understanding how change will impact every element of the business to decide what the priorities are. 

Many business strategies will have been rocked by the pandemic. The short and longer-term effects of this will be devastating for those that do not pivot and evolve their strategies to capitalise on new opportunities. By analysing and redefining goals, processes, technologies, and decision making, organisations can transform effectively and efficiently.

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