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You Need a Solid Strategy for the ‘Next Normal’


“I wish my dad had done this ten years ago.”

I was packing up at the end of a strategy session when the company president approached me. The founder’s son, he was leading the family business through the transition of its recent purchase by a huge multinational with a nose for quality acquisitions.

I’d been brought in post-sale to take the company, a mid-sized industrial manufacturer, through some strategy work. I could see that the son was initially skeptical of me being there.

And why not? His family’s business, the one his father had started, had been successful for a long time, and largely without the input of consultants like me. But by the end of the session, after we’d figured out all of the things they could have been doing to grow, create more value for their customers and stand out in an intensely competitive field, his attitude had changed.

“We could have done so many things differently,” the son lamented. “We would have been a different company.”

This is just one example of a story I see play out too often: a company with huge potential falling short because its leaders didn’t think they needed a strategy at all, or, more often, lacked the discipline to create one and the drive and diligence to execute it. This company was good but nowhere near as good as it could have been. It could have been great.

I saw that the son realized what they had left on the table, all the revenue, market share and profitability they could have had with a solid strategy and execution. Their company could have been worth five or even ten times its actual sale price.

How much more wealth could they have created for their family with a solid strategy?

Strategy Matters More Than Ever.

Strategy is talked about endlessly in business. But for all the lip service paid to it, its actual application falls far short. That’s because, while it seems obvious and simple, a successful strategy requires significant amounts of focus and dedication. Otherwise, it’s just a dead document or PowerPoint destined for the trash heap where too many consultant reports go to die.

More on that in a minute, but first, let’s start with the basics. Strategy is talked about so much that I sometimes wonder if the word’s been stripped of its meaning. I like the classic Michael Porter definition, which focuses on your competitive position, “deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value.”

What are those unique things you do that create value for your customers that others don't do or don't do as well as you? Why would potential users choose you? And then how do you translate that into the key activities your people need to undertake to execute that strategy?

Back to Basics.

Mike Tyson famously said that “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

COVID is the ultimate sucker punch.

The next normal for your organization likely looks a lot different from your pre-pandemic status quo. This last quarter of 2021 is a prime opportunity to rethink and re-define your organization’s strategy and refocus on how you execute to create more value than ever.

The good news?

The fundamentals haven’t changed. You still want to deliver outstanding customer experiences, just via new channels. You still need to engage your team; only now it’s in the new context of a remote, hybrid and flexible workplace. (Click here for more on that).

Yep, as you and your team grapple with COVID’s fallout, and in the wake of so much change and in anticipation of more to come, you need a solid strategy more than ever. And it starts with a series of questions. Ask yourself:

  • How do you support a rapidly changing customer experience/journey?

  • How do you create value now that the fundamental processes by which the business creates value have changed almost overnight?

  • How can you help accelerate the execution of the business’s vision and strategy?

  • How can you help align organizational energy towards the most critical business drivers?

  • What should you stop or avoid doing either because it no longer fits with the environment or it doesn’t optimize the value you provide?

Notice anything? I’ll bet those questions aren’t too easy to answer. And I’ll guess it’s because you still need to talk to your customers to understand how their needs and expectations have changed and to see the opportunities as we shift from a state of survival and reaction to a proactive, clear-eyed plan moving forward.

In my next post, we’ll dig into execution, where up to 90% of organizations fall short of getting the results they want. Remember the family business I mentioned at the top of this post? They aren’t alone, far from it, and it’s bad execution, not a flawed strategy, that’s the usual suspect.

Meanwhile, here’s your homework: I want you to start talking to your customers–past, present, potential. I promise most will be happy to speak with you (people love sharing their opinions). Remember: it’s not a sales call. Don’t pitch, don’t rebut their observations, and resist the urge to judge. Just listen. Let me know how it goes!

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