Businesses have had to accept, adapt and operate under pandemic restrictions for just about a year. Some have thrived, fortunate to provide solutions that address areas such as connectivity, communications, security and automation, which all enable life and activities in a remote, socially distanced environment. Other businesses adapted and figured out a way to serve their customers despite not being able to interact in the same way, which has allowed them to survive and hopefully resurge. But, many have actually been devastated as a result of the lockdown, unable to create or deliver their products and services to customers under the circumstances.
Now, with vaccines in mass production and distribution, it seems that those restrictions will shortly be lifted and many of the practices adopted to keep us safe and alive will melt away. With the light growing brighter at the end of the tunnel, businesses need to develop their post-pandemic strategy and tactics now, in preparation for a new economic climate. But, developing a strategy with conviction will be more difficult than ever, as the path to economic activity is likely to be fraught with uncertainty and we are likely to see more than a little turbulence on the way to the “new normal.”
Prior to the pandemic, businesses of all sizes and across all sectors already were operating in an environment of almost constant disruption and change. Add to that the temporary and longer-term structural changes in customer priorities and behaviors forged in the pandemic, and one understands how difficult setting an actionable strategy that can be executed with conviction has become. It’s now imperative to begin to chart a company’s course. Moreover, this can be completed without compromising the integrity of one’s existing strategic framework simply by applying these few principles to account for the uncertainty that lies ahead:
Question everything you read, see, and hear. The truth is that almost no one has experience with a major, pandemic-induced economic lockdown or the recovery from it. So, while it’s important to stay broadly informed, you know your market and your customers best. You should maintain a consistent dialogue with everyone in your ecosystem and look to relate the broader perspectives to your own situation very carefully. Today’s good news about the unemployment numbers and the health of the economy is likely tomorrow’s bad news about the impact of inflation on your business. Keep listening, but challenge pre-conceived conclusions and, instead, apply what you learn thoughtfully and practically to your situation.
Use scenarios to plan. Over the last year, we’ve seen first-hand the unpredictability of the business and market environment. We still don’t know how we will all behave as customers and workers when restrictions recede and the economy gradually opens and we will not know much for certain for a while. Maybe the pandemic forever changed the way we work, vacation, socialize, and shop. It’s pretty certain that our habits and the way we move through our lives has at least been altered in some way. So, think carefully about the different permutations of behaviors and outcomes under which you might have to operate and fashion your plans around a set of alternative scenarios. The formality of the thought process will help you be more prepared and even give you more conviction when executing alternative plans and priorities.
Validate your vision. Make sure that your value proposition will remain relevant and deliver value over the long term under all of your planning scenarios. You may have to make adjustments to your core value proposition, products, or services to accommodate the circumstances. Think hard and plan for these things appropriately now, ensuring you have the talent and capital to execute under different circumstances.
Use Smaller Planning and Execution Horizons. The days of executing under a 5-year plan were already numbered prior to the pandemic. Those days are surely over now. You must become adept at operating in a business environment where change is constant, adaptation and disruption are constant. Ground your long-term strategy in your vision and your validated value proposition, but break down your plans into smaller, trackable increments or time horizons so that you can quickly and dynamically respond to the environment as it changes and evolves around you.
In times like these, where we are certain to experience some turbulence and operate under uncertainty for a while, developing structured, but malleable plans enables businesses to confidently set out and continue on their course, providing leaders with alternative actions and ideas should circumstances change.