In Times of Crisis, Is Strategy Still Relevant?

During these uncertain times, many executives are faced with deciding where to spend valuable resource energy.  Is it still worthwhile to define strategic objectives when the business landscape is changing so rapidly?  Should I spend my time on defining where we’re going when I can’t even see 6 months into the future?  These are some of the queries that executives are pondering.

It is easy to get caught in the trap of viewing your business’ future in terms of the current crisis.  However, if you plan to be around when the uncertainty settles, you must steer clear of this trap.  In order to successfully navigate the challenging times, executive must remain focused on “beyond the crisis”.  Understanding where you plan to be is more vital than ever.  Having a sound strategy assists executives in keeping focus in the right place.  The markets will turn around.  When they do, will your business be poised for success or floundering in rear-view management?

Use The Down Time Wisely

If you have been managing your business effectively, you should have adequate reserves to sustain you through temporary declines in revenue.  That being the case, each organization should take advantage of any slowing in business to perform the following activities:

  • Go back to the core: Remember what it is that you do that your customer loves and make it even better
  • Find opportunity: Look at the new market emerging during the time of crisis and see if old products and services can be retooled or repackaged to address crisis-inspired needs
  • Shore up weaknesses: Find areas where your business can be improved and take the time to do it, make yourself more effective, efficient, and responsive to the customer
  • Measure, measure, measure: Use key measurements and indicators to help visualize where the market is going.  This will help you be properly positioned when the turn-around occurs
  • Keep your eye on the horizon: Remember that the current crisis will end and keep your eye on where you’re going. Like those ships that used to cross a seemingly boundless ocean, overnight the landscape change drastically.  Where once there was only more sea, land may be sighted and new opportunities may arise.

Take Advantage of Tools

Times of crisis require more robust and flexible planning tools.  While the typical tool belt may include annual planning and even Balanced Scorecard, validating strategy and responding to corporate landscape changes requires you to go beyond.  Executives need to be conversant in scenario planning.  This tool allows the organization to review four widely different futures and ensure that your strategy will remain valid in each possible future.  Taking this approach moves you from thinking about what you offer to the market into understanding what the market needs.  Scenario planning may just be the separating factor between organizations that survive and those that thrive.

Maintaining focus on your end goal is more vital than ever in times of turmoil and crisis.  When markets are most uncertain, both the greatest risks and the greatest opportunities arise.  In order to be ready to address them, executives can not afford to be caught up in crisis-inspired tunnel vision.  Your eyesight must be broad and sharp to address the challenges you face.