Where Do We Go From Here? Anticipate. Adapt. Accelerate.
May 29, 2020
By Axel Leichum, Partner
Many economies are reopening. How fast they will recover is not clear. But what is clear is that the world is different. As the new normal evolves, business leaders need a playbook to navigate their organization through this critical period. To do so successfully leaders must anticipate what the new normal will look like, adapt their strategy, and determine how to accelerate their organization to drive success. And, the quicker they do so, the quicker they can gain competitive advantage.
Anticipate: Leaders must anticipate their future business situation, even during a time of uncertainty, unknowns, and shifting landscapes. The most challenging and important component of the playbook is grappling with this uncertainty and defining the new normal. Which market trends will accelerate, which will fade away, and which will emerge? This will determine shifts in demand, changes in customer needs and buying behaviors, and how your marketplace ecosystem will evolve. In order to make confident decisions, it is critical for leaders to develop robust hypotheses of the potential new normal market scenarios and to come to a consensus on the most likely path. B2B companies that have better market insights, higher level critical thinking abilities to identify second and third order effects across their entire customer chain, and can access early market indicators that show the new normal scenario that is actually emerging, will be advantaged.
Adapt: To survive and prosper organizations must adapt to changing conditions. This is even more critical in today’s environment, as conditions are changing more rapidly than ever. This is not the time to completely rethink your strategy; it is the time to adapt it. Significant long-term uncertainty remains and moving quickly will be imperative to success. Leaders need to determine how they can best alter their existing strategy to adapt to the new normal, given how the market outlook has changed and where their business is advantaged or disadvantaged. The exception here is, of course, businesses whose markets have been fundamentally disrupted (e.g. certain portions of the hospitality industry), where a complete strategy reset is the only option. However, companies should resist performing a simple exercise of taking their existing strategy and determining which initiatives to continue or stop. Taking an outside in market-based approach and defining a fresh set of strategic initiatives will lead to a more robust plan, limiting bias towards existing initiatives and the risk of missing new opportunities that have emerged. These strategic initiatives should address key questions such as which markets and segments to prioritize, which existing and new offerings to invest in, how you should transform your business model, and who you should partner with or acquire. From there you can connect back to your existing strategy and make key decisions on which initiatives you will continue, accelerate, modify, pause, or add to your go-forward plan.
Accelerate: All of your competitors are evaluating their strategy and approach right now; you will be advantaged if you accelerate your implementation ahead of them. In this environment speed and effectiveness are more important than ever. Organizations that get ahead of understanding the new normal and alter their strategy appropriately will be advantaged. However, to deliver results from the adapted strategy, leaders need to identify ways to accelerate success by aligning the ecosystem (competitors, channels, partners, digital) to their benefit, aligning their offering portfolio to the new normal, reaching and selling value to customers more effectively, capturing more value from their offerings, and putting the right people, processes, and tools in place. As it is more likely than not that investment and resources will be constrained, driving commercial excellence across the organization will be imperative.
In conclusion, there is one more “A” word: Agile. Strategy always needs to be reevaluated and refreshed, but in these times of heightened uncertainty the cycle must be shortened. Vigilant monitoring of market indicators should be put in place to anticipate the expected new normal market scenarios. Business leaders should have high level contingency strategies in place if scenarios move in an unanticipated way. As results from accelerated initiatives begin to materialize, strategic priority should be quickly shifted to those that are generating outsized returns and away from those that are underperforming. Organizations that build in these agile capabilities, along with others, will better position themselves for competitive success no matter how the new normal market situation evolves.
This article is a continuation of our thoughts on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the key strategic decisions B2B companies should be focusing on. You can find our other articles here: