With the prospect of effective vaccines rolling out across the world, there is a certain degree of optimism amongst business and government.
The reality is that the current business climate will not change overnight, and the vaccines will take months to be distributed. The best estimates suggest that priority vaccines could be delivered to all who need them by Easter, but more moderate projections warn that production and logistics challenges could mean that summer is more realistic.
Whatever the timescale for the vaccination programme, it's almost certain that the post-COVID world won't resemble life before the pandemic. It therefore makes sense to plan for a continuation of existing pandemic working practices, whilst building new strategies for the future.
Putting this into practice
Good strategic management is key to balancing current needs and future expectations. We certainly recommend continuing with the existing working practices that have become accepted over the past year.
At the same time, it is essential to set relevant business objectives and to have the systems in place to measure progress and success. With the right structure in place, organisations should aim to be agile as the operating landscape changes.
Roadmap to Navigate 2021:
1. Embrace change
As a business leader, you must recognise that the operating landscape will remain in a considerable state of flux for much of this year. This will present challenges but will also bring opportunities to those organisations that are both flexible and responsive. Your job is to identify change, respond to it, set your organisation's course of action and to carry your workforce with you on your journey. Carry out market research, analyse your own data, keep up to speed with what is happening in the business environment.
Take advantage of recent forced internal changes too; let's look at remote working as an example of a core business change that is likely to embed in the longer term. Evidence shows that teleworking has been growing steadily over the past few years, even before COVID forced us all to give up our daily commutes. But for employers, it's interesting to know that 82% of US firms are already using homeworking as a way to increase morale and that 83% of workers would see the ability to work from home as the clincher if considering similar roles. Furthermore, 90% of workers said that the ability to work flexibly boosted their morale. In our own research we found that most companies are already set up to offer homeworking and that a significant number of workers were keen to embrace extended homeworking as a long-term working practice.
2. Stick to your COVID-secure working practices
Continue to commit to the COVID-19 safe practices that allow you to operate safely - protecting staff and customers as far as possible. Now is a good time to review those processes against newly emerging standards. The more effectively you can present yourself as a responsible, COVID-secure business, the more comfortable your employees, customers and other stakeholders will feel. This will translate into better brand awareness, loyalty and business.
3. Recommit to your strategic planning
The days of holding an annual strategy away day (and then immediately returning to tactical operational concerns!) are long gone. It is essential that strategy is built into normal day-to-day business activities. Strategic planning is business process just like any other business process. If you have not formalised your strategic planning process, then do so. As a starting point look at something like the Balanced Scorecard methodology. If you need to get advice, then do so. See item seven below.
4. Measure your success, and align your business
Are you achieving your objectives? Are you hitting your KPIs? Where do you need to adjust your efforts? Now is the right time to refocus for the year ahead. Gather your data, your decision-makers, subject-matter experts and front-line workers and review your progress. It's time to focus hearts and minds on your route to success in the year ahead. External research can be a useful input at this stage too - Deloitte believes that technology will enable new 'social contracts' at work and believes that US businesses will be focusing on the transition back to work for stressed, burned-out workers, and on ways to better optimise and use technology. Remember that software tools optimise your business measurement and remove the need for manual work (wasteful and prone to errors.)
5. Check your systems
To measure success in an efficient, effective way, you need the right systems. We have helped our clients to find the right KPI management software for their organisations, Spider Impact is the system we have used in hundreds of organisations across Europe, The Middle East and Africa. From auto-building strategy maps to automating dashboards and reporting. The right software can unlock true value for your business - and greatly facilitate your strategic processes.
2020 was a tough year for everyone. COVID-19 affected our employees, our staff, and our wider communities. Your stakeholders are likely to have mixed feelings about 2021. Their energy and motivation may be low, and they are likely to be looking for strong leadership. Provide this leadership with a strong communications programme. Demonstrate that in your organisation there is a clear, well-managed strategy in place that will allow you to ride the waves and to position yourself for long-term success. Share the positives, encourage good news messages and create energy. Explain the focus areas for the period ahead and thank everyone for their efforts. Take everyone on your journey and aim to engage hearts and minds for maximum performance gains.
7. Get the help that you need
Whereas in the past you may have invited consultants onsite to help with the formation of your strategy or the definition of your objectives, or indeed, with the creation of your key performance indicators, this is not an option at the moment. However, the consultants have not gone away! They are still there and have been spending their time researching and looking new ways to help clients. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can’t receive good, quality help from consultants unless you see them face to face. They are ready and waiting to help and have already got to grips with remote working. Give your favourite consultant a call he or she will be ready. Also, take advantage of product owners. Application providers like the people at Spider Strategies will be more than happy to help, and they have been working remotely for decades.
Now is not the time to be cautious. We can see there is an end in sight. It might not be for a few months, it might not be for another year, but it will come. Be bold in your approach. Businesses and organisations are experiencing all kinds of unknown challenges. Reduced revenues and uncertainty require a previously unknown delicate balancing act between income and costs. Hold your nerve and plan optimistically for the future.
About Clive Keyte Managing Director, Intrafocus, a Spider Strategies Partner
Clive Keyte is a strategy and business performance management consultant with over 30 years’ experience across multiple industries. He has frequently been at the leading edge of new technology introduction including the internet, mobile, voice products and more recently SaaS and Cloud. He is a motivational leader who has managed strategy, business development, sales and product development in the UK, Europe, USA and Japan.
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