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Set a course out of the storm – the strategic view

A series of views – view 5, the strategic view   

Why you need to use research to set a course out of the storm now

1. Where are we now? (Strategic analysis)

We have been using the analogy of being in a major ‘storm’ during the pandemic and post Brexit to give context to the critical importance of organisations using research to create suitable strategies for the future.

“Strategy is the direction and scope of an organisation over a long term, which achieves advantage in a changing environment through its configuration of resources and competences with the aim of fulfilling stakeholder expectations” Johnson, Scholes & Whittington

Over the last four articles we have looked at some of the key areas to consider in gaining current insight into our employees, customers, the markets that we operate within and our organisation.

Last week in the UK we experienced taking ‘Step 2’ of the Government’s COVID 19 response ‘roadmap’ with businesses such as retail, personal care and outdoor hospitality reopening. Research from the DMA last month (March 2021) indicated that although the majority of businesses (70%) are still being negatively impacted by the pandemic, nearly two thirds (63%) are starting to see signs of recovery. This is reflected in the estimates of revenue decline. The findings do however, suggest there is a potentially long road to fully recover from the challenges of the last 12 months. Other respected research sources such as Gartner and McKinsey are also highlighting a more positive outlook for many organisations.

“Before we get too carried away on a wave of euphoria it is important to note that…the world has changed”

This is very encouraging news for all of us. Before we get too carried away on a wave of euphoria, it is important to note that many consumers’ and business customers’ attitudes and perceptions have shifted significantly. The world has changed.

2. Plotting your organisation’s course (formulating your strategy)

This framework helps to explain how the insights we have gained from our research and analysis enable us both to formulate suitable strategy and to create a roadmap that can be shared with all stakeholders.

3. What does our strategy need to include?

  1. Direction
    • setting a course
    • providing a clear roadmap
  2. Scope
    • deciding what we will do and, most importantly, what we won’t
    • what products or services to develop
    • which projects to prioritise
  3. How to achieve advantage
    • there needs to be a value to both the organisation and its customers
  4. Changing environment
    • how the organisation will address the changes
    • how it will respond to the speed of change
  5. Configuration of resources and competences
    • pivoting or aligning these to our chosen market or markets
    • which markets or parts of markets to target
    • where to invest resources – human and financial
    • market positioning
  1. Fulfilling stakeholder expectations
    • How it will fulfil all stakeholders’ expectations including: employees; customers; communities; investors etc…

Given the ever increasing speed of change our chosen course or strategy needs to be reviewed on a regular basis. Setting any course will need adjustment to allow for tides, currents and changing weather patterns so the changing business environment needs to be considered in the same way.

4. What are other organisations saying they need to do?

Our research, conducted late last year, identified the importance for many organisations of the following actions to successfully navigate towards the ‘new normal’:

  • Look at fresh ideas and how to adapt using existing skill sets
  • Identify the right things to focus on
  • Review the purpose of the organisation.
  • Review brand values
  • Closely manage changes
  • Train employees – especially in the use of IT and digital
  • Retain talent
  • Develop leadership skills – especially to support the shift to hybrid working and the changes in employee expectations
  • Provide some certainty in an uncertain business environment – use a clear roadmap with stage gates, communicate it, review it regularly and stay agile
  • Keep scanning the internal and external environment for change
  • Keep reviewing and adapting plans
  • Seek help early. None of us know it all. How others have adapted to the new world can inform our own thinking.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate

“We need to provide some certainty in an uncertain business environment – use a clear roadmap with stage gates, communicate it, review it regularly and stay agile”

“Seek help early. None of us know it all. How others have adapted to the new world can inform our own thinking.”


Uncertainty and volatility will continue to feature in 2021 and beyond.

Some things are likely to have changed irrevocably. Changes to employees’ expectations mean that hybrid working is likely to stay for many. Changes in customer behaviour and expectations will require increased ‘real time’ data collection approaches and an agile approach to providing an engaging customer experience.

Challenges and shocks are inevitable as we move towards a new normal’ – whatever that might end up being.

Charting a course and communicating a clear roadmap to all stakeholders is a must to successfully navigate towards the future.

We help organisations to deliver transformational change. If this article has given you food for thought, get in touch. Perhaps we can do something for you. 







The perfect storm – Why you need research now – employees

A series of ten views – view 1, employees   

Everyone has their own take on the situation that organisations are facing at the moment. As an experienced researcher, I have always seen my role as being to reflect on the data before providing insights. It seems like now, more than ever, is the right time to publish a series of thought pieces on why we need marketing research.

The perfect storm?

Recent research that we have undertaken for a client has clearly indicated that, in the UK, organisations are keenly aware that we are in the eye of two key ‘storm fronts’ currently – to use the ‘perfect storm’ analogy.

  1. COVID
  2. Brexit

The business landscape

The business environment is being shaken in numerous ways, resulting in the following:

  • Uncertainty

There is a continual lack of clarity resulting from the ongoing ‘storms’.

  • Volatility

This means that the sheer rate of change is affecting our views of the world around us. Constant change can be very unsettling for many of us. It is impacting on previous cultural and behavioural norms significantly.


Organisations are facing major challenges including:

  • Sink, swim or surf

Of course, there will be some organisations that will benefit from these times but many others from sectors that will be obvious to most of us are still in survival mode. The impacts on financial aspects and all stakeholders, especially employees, are clear to see.

  • Cash

Tightening the purse strings is an inevitable reaction by those facing survival challenges.

  • Hybrid/home working

WFH (working from home) is on everyone’s agenda at this time. It provides opportunities and challenges in equal measure. It is important to recognise that it doesn’t suit everybody! Depending on our personality and behavioural traits, we will find this shift easy or hard to make.

  • Employees’ work/life balance

WFH has an impact on work/ life balance. Many have found the experience very positive but it remains a challenge for others too. Once the novelty has worn off, it can be hard to maintain a balance.

  • Shifts in the psychological contract

Employees are changing the way they view their relationships with employers. Redundancies, job market uncertainty and fear, both short and long term, are contributors to this.

  • Individuals’ focus on personal safety, security and survival

As a result of all of this, some individuals have been pushed into ‘survival’ mode. In terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, if safety and physiological needs are under threat self-fulfilment is not a key priority.

  • Providing clear direction

A key challenge for leaders in organisations is the critical need to communicate a clear direction during uncertain times.  A ‘roadmap’ for the future, as one respondent to the research described it so well.

  • Changes in customer behaviour and expectations

Our customers’ perceptions and attitudes are shifting too. They were already changing but the catalysts have accelerated this by a significant factor. The move to more online discovery and purchase are obvious, but, perhaps not as immediately visible, are the changes to brand loyalty and the time being spent on exploring alternative options.

Ten thoughts on what you need to research now?

There are plenty of things keeping business leaders awake at night but the key question to answer is:

“What do I really need to know about…?”

I have arrived at ten key areas that need to be considered for exploration now:

  1. Your employees
  2. Your customers
  3. Your markets
  4. Your organisation and internal communication
  5. Your processes
  6. Your products and services
  7. Your competitors
  8. Your strategy
  9. Your marketing communications
  10. Your brand

The first two, in particular, are intended to be in priority order.

Number one must be our people. Without them as the foundation, the other areas would not be important.

Customers would come a very close second.  Without customers an organisation would cease to have a purpose.

The employee view

Back to our core question: what do we really need to know and understand about our people?

As a matter of some urgency, we need to ensure we have a clear view as to the following:

  • Satisfaction
  • Levels of engagement with the organisation
    • Do they feel they belong?
    • Do they feel part of a team?
    • Are they being effectively managed
    • Do they know how they are doing?
    • Are they looking to move to another organisation when the opportunity arises?
  • Emotional states
    • Well being
    • Mental health
    • Self esteem
    • Loneliness
    • Vulnerability
  • Physical health
  • Sense of direction – do they know what the leaders’ plans are?
  • Levels of security or insecurity
    • Financial
    • Emotional
    • Relationships
  • Extent of team working
  • Attitudes to WFH and hybrid working
    • There may be pressure on some to be positive about WFH. Will it be the new ‘normal’? Will people feel able to voice their true feelings about it?
  • Extent to which work/life balance is being realised

Why you really need to know about your employees now…

There is no time like the present to make sure that we fully understand the state of our employee base.

If you need help researching this, let’s talk.