In the current uncertain environment, DAVE WAKEMAN advises how business owners can assess and adapt their management strategy.
Like most folks, I’m still unsure of what stage of the pandemic we are in – are we hitting the end of this? Are we in the rough middle stages? Is there some big twist that will push us back to the beginning?
I’m not sure.
What I do know is that this period of time definitely fits the definition of what many strategists term a ‘VUCA environment’ – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.
Assisting business owners to think through dealing with this time has kept my mind off where we are in the stages of recovery or dealing with the pandemic – for the better, I hope.
All of this thinking over the last few months has enabled me to put together a few ideas on managing your business strategy through this particular VUCA environment.
Don’t be afraid of choice
Now, more than ever, we should all be willing to embrace the choices that are available to us.
We keep hearing about ‘the Great Resignation’, particularly in the US, and that is a reflection of people making a choice about their lives, their careers, and what is important to them.
What the research shows us is that people’s feelings on value have changed; what they want has changed, and what they are willing to invest their time, money, and attention in, has changed.
It is important that you think about this in the context of yourself, your business, and your staff.
Expecting that the things that were certain before the pandemic started will remain the same is a dangerous bet.
This means that you must embrace choice and be willing to have the courage to make new decisions, adjusting your strategy if that is what the world around you – the market, your staff, your customers – demands.
Know your position
There are only two positioning choices you can make as a business – a choice related to your competition, and a choice related to the nature of your business.
For example, if you decide to use service as your selling point, you could say to customers, “Our service is great,” or alternatively, “You don’t have to deal with bad service.”
The first one is about your business, the second is about your competition.
The problem is that too many business owners attempt to do both and as a result, get stuck in the middle of nowhere and end up seeing no improvement in sales.
As we enter a stage of recovery where the idea of ‘normal’ or ‘new normal’ is thrown around – with no context and, often, no basis in reality – it is important to understand why people will choose to work with you, or shop with you, over your competition.
As French marketing expert Louis Grenier says, “Not standing out is the dangerous path.”
All of us need to understand why folks are going to pick us and what that says about how we position ourselves in the market.
Know this and deal with it.
In the best of times, strategic decisions shouldn’t be things you are shackled to for life.
The reality is that all strategies eventually stop working and it is your job to understand that you are going to need to consistently update your strategy based on new research, new market conditions, or new value creation.
In a VUCA environment, these ‘inflection points’ happen much more quickly, consistently, and radically.
This means that all of us need to recognise that we must monitor our environment for signs of change, new ideas and opportunities, and new possibilities.
One of the key ideas that I try to teach in my strategy work is that the best approach to being flexible isn’t to make your decision-making process ‘all or nothing’, but rather about recognising the possibilities so that you can take the one that will give you the best likelihood of success.
That’s smart in normal times – and, I’d argue, even smarter now.