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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.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

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 eye of the storm – why you need research now – organisations

A series of views – view 4, the organisation view   

Why you need to research your organisation now 

We have used the ‘perfect storm’ analogy to give context to the critical importance of organisations having current insights to create suitable strategies for the future.  As we start to see the first tentative steps out of lockdown in the UK it may feel as if we are reaching a period of calm. For some organisations, though, this might literally be the eye of the storm that continues to rage around us. The future for many remains uncertain and ensuring that we have insight into critical elements now is more important than ever to be able to successfully navigate through it.

In the first three articles we looked at what to consider in gaining current insight into our employees, customers and the markets that we operate within.

Understanding your organisation

Having understood the needs arising from research of these three elements we need to consider how well our organisation is aligned with them.

Our own research, conducted at the end of 2020, revealed that some of the key impacts of the uncertainty wrought by COVID and Brexit on organisations were seen as being:

  • Supply issues (especially initially)
  • Workplace structures
    • Employees – e.g. working from home, motivation, management, support, anxiety and retention
    • Culture – maintaining positive aspects of organisational culture in the absence of face to face contact
    • Service quality pressures
  • Cost cutting
  • Leadership style challenges

Pivoting strategies’ suitability

When we think about strategy we will often think about suitability and fit. For example:

“Does the proposed strategy fit the culture, leadership style and structure of the organisation?”

During the ‘eye of a storm’ it is well worth looking at this from another viewpoint. From a research perspective the question could be posed the other way around:

“Does the organisation fit the required strategy?”

The ‘six’ elements

What should we consider against this thinking?

There are numerous aspects of the organisation that might need to be researched.

Here are six key aspects for us to explore:

  1. Structure

An organisation chart can reveal so much about the way that an organisation works and its culture. Looking at your own structure, consider the following:

  • Is it up to date? Organisation charts are often in need of revision.
  • Does it accurately reflect the interactions that take place? For example, charts are typically in straight lines – would a 3D view be more appropriate?
  • How relevant is it to the current situation and the needs that have arisen from your previous insights (employees, customers and markets)
    • Does it suit a shift to working from home?
    • Is there still a requirement for the same premises, for example?
    • How does the structure impact on processes?
    • Is the structure relevant to the market or markets that you are in or need to be in?
  1. Leadership

How does your organisation’s leadership align with the insights gained so far?

  • What is or are the predominant style(s) of your leaders?
  • What are the gaps in leadership capabilities? For example:
    • Digital know-how
    • Innovation
    • Change
    • Communicating future direction
    • People selection and development
  1. Culture

“The way we do things around here”

What is the organisational culture? Can you define it? How would others define it?

Culture has a massive impact on the way that an organisation works.

A cultural audit is invaluable to consider where there may be issues with strategic fit. Is there any inertia evident as a result of the significant uncertainties over the past 12 months, for example?

One excellent way of doing this is to use the Cultural Web – a tool created by Johnson and Scholes.

You can find out more about how to use this here.

  1. Values

What are the values of the organisation? How do these resonate or otherwise with your employees, customers and markets?

Values are increasingly important and can have a key impact on how your brand is perceived too.

For example, think about your stance on societal issues such as diversity and equity.

  1. Processes

You may have already considered where key processes are impacting on customer experience but what about some of the less obvious ones.  There are so often things that we do that are no longer questioned.

Challenge the processes in place across the whole organisation. Which are aligned to what you have discovered so far and which are creating barriers to your future success?

Consider digital transformation, for example. To what extent has the organisation adopted digital technologies into its processes?

What about barriers to positive behaviour?

Crawford Hollingsworth wrote an article in impact magazine about auditing ‘sludge’. It is not a term that I had heard before but seems quite apt to undertaking research on the organisation now. Sludge is..

“…when consumers or businesses face high levels of friction that obstruct their efforts to achieve something that is in their best interest, or are deliberately misled or encouraged to take action that is not in their best interest.”

Crawford Hollingsworth

This is all about making behaviour easier for organisations and customers alike. You can find out more about ‘sludge’ here.

  1. Internal communications

Explore how your organisation communicates internally. There is no intent to state the obvious in terms of how important this is or to suggest that it isn’t already top of mind. Like all the above elements, the focus has shifted significantly over the past year so demands review.

Consider some of the following;

  • How have your internal communications approaches changed to recognise the shift in working patterns? Are the approaches appropriate?
  • Who is responsible for the overall management of internal communications? Is this in the right place?
  • Are you communicating a clear roadmap to employees for how and when the organisation plans to navigate out of the storm?
  • How are you getting feedback on your communications? Do you need to consider new channels?

THE BOTTOM LINE

“Fundamentally…

… is your organisation as aligned to the expectations of your employees, customers and markets as it needs to be?

What do you need to change to make your organisation the right fit for the strategies that will take it successfully out of the storm?”

If you would like someone to talk to about any of this, give me a call.

 

 

 

 

 

The ongoing storm – why you need research now – markets

A series of ten views – view 3, the market view   

Why you need to research your markets now – the market view

In the last two articles we have highlighted the major shocks that organisations and individuals are continuing to face from the lack of certainty and volatility in the world that we live in now. The transition period following Brexit has ended but COVID continues to have a significant impact on us all.

Many organisations continue to face major challenges due to this.

In our work and personal lives we all need something that we can anchor our plans around.

From a business perspective, we need to understand as best we can what is going on in the marketplaces that we interact with. This has always been the case but in the current climate it is more important than ever that we have this insight to enable us to create a roadmap for the future.

Understanding your markets

After researching the foundations of your organisation – its people and its customers – the next area to explore is your markets.

“Before we do anything from a strategy perspective, it is vital to know where we are now.”

So what are the key things we need to know?

  1. What is the impact on the market(s) that you are in from the major shocks over the past year?
  • How have they changed?
    • Have they grown?
    • Different dynamics. A shift in the way in which the market(s) work.
    • Declined?
    • Stayed the same?
    • Frozen?
    • Disappeared?
  • What are the main factors that have caused the changes and why?
  1. How has your organisation performed against these changes?

Research will usually reveal things that we didn’t know. It is more than possible, therefore, that we may not have been aware of some of the market changes that have happened. Where you have identified changes:

  • What have you done to address them?
  • What has worked?
  • What hasn’t?
  • What measures have you used? For example:
    • Market share
    • Turnover
    • Profit or loss
    • ROI
    • Customer value
    • Customer retention
    • Likelihood to recommend
  • Which are new for the past year?
  1. What about your competitors?

How are your competitors doing? What are they doing?

Think about the wider competitive environment too. What is changing? How are these changes affecting your organisation?

  • We looked at changing customer behaviours and expectations in episode two. How are these affecting your position in your markets?
  • Are there new products or services that have appeared in your market(s) over the last 12 months that satisfy needs that you used to?
  • Are others (new companies or existing competitors) trying new routes to market(s)?
    • Who or what are these?
    • Can you compete with them effectively?
  • Have there been changes in the supply chain? How do these affect you, if so?
  1. What is likely to happen next?

What else might be on the horizon to add further shocks to the business environment?

“Scanning and seeking to interpret future changes to the business environment has never been so important.”

It may seem obvious but continual scanning and reporting on the business environment is vital:

  • What political changes may happen that will affect your marketplaces? Think about your customers and potential customers here.
  • Climate change is a hot issue from an environmental perspective. What might happen that would affect your market(s) in the near to medium future?
  • What social changes are happening that may affect you and your customers?
  • What technological changes are imminent?
    • Which of these are likely to affect the markets that you are in?
  • What likely economic changes will affect you and your markets the most?
  • What regulatory changes might impact you and your markets? For example, we are by no means out of woods in terms of data transfers from the EEA to the UK yet.

Trying to read the future and planning against some of the likelihoods are key to developing a roadmap that you and your organisation can follow.

  1. What do you need to consider?

Having researched the above areas, what do the findings mean?

  • What do you need to change to create a more sustainable business for the future?
  • What opportunities exist for new products and services in markets that you are in now?
  • What about opportunities for these products and services in markets that you don’t currently target?
  • Are there opportunities for your current offerings in other markets?
  • What new market areas could benefit from your organisation’s capabilities – especially your people’s skills and knowledge?
  • Should you withdraw from some of your markets?

THE BOTTOM LINE

“Fundamentally…

…are you in the right marketplace(s)?

…are you surfing the waves, stuck in the shore break or sinking?

… how can you pivot your organisation’s capabilities to the meet the opportunities in current and/or new markets?”

If you would like a sounding board for any of this, let’s put a Zoom meeting in the diary

 

 

 

The perfect storm – Why you need research now – customers

A series of ten views – view 2, customers   

Why you need to research your customers now – the customer view

In the last article we highlighted the major shocks that organisations and individuals are facing from the continuing uncertainty and volatility in the current environment.

Ten things to explore now

We suggested that there were ten key areas that organisations should strongly consider exploring right now. The top two are:

Understanding your customers

 

Having understood the foundation of any organisation – its people – the next key area to explore is your customers.

“Without customers an organisation would cease to have a purpose.”

Changes in customer behaviour and expectations

Customers’ perceptions and attitudes are undoubtedly shifting. They were already changing but these have accelerated significantly due the impact of COVID, especially.

“It is more important than ever to find out what your customers think and feel”

The customer view

So, what are the key things we need know now?

  1. How have your customers’ expectations changed in 2020?

In simple terms, what do they want from you?

Gain feedback from them on their experiences with you and your products and/or services. What do they say about areas such as?

  • Usability of products or services
  • Digital communications
  • Website functionality
  • Social media
  • How you could improve
  1. How do you measure up?

Obvious perhaps, but how well do you meet their expectations?

Which of your competitors are better or worse than you, in their view?

  1. What are the gaps?

How close or far are you from what you have discovered?

  1. How have customer behaviours changed in relation to your organisation in 2020?
  • How loyal are they to your organisation?
  • Would they recommend you to others? If not, why not?
  • What has changed in terms of their relationship with your organisation?
    • Are they more or less loyal?
    • Are they considering alternative products or services and/or providers more or less than previously? How is this manifesting itself in purchase patterns?
    • Are they sourcing your offerings in a different way? For example, a marked shift to online vs. physical locations.
    • Are they finding you in different ways? More online discovery, for example.
  1. What is keeping them awake at night?
  • What are your customers thinking?
  • What are their fears and concerns – both now and for the future?
  • What are their levels of confidence and optimism?

What does this mean for your organisation? What can you do to support your customers as a result?

  1. What do they think of you?

What are their overall perceptions of you as an organisation? Explore areas such as:

  • Their view of your values and purpose including: your approach to the environment; the community; societal responsibility and sustainability
  • How they would describe or position you?
  • Your organisation’s relevance to their values and beliefs
  • Do they trust you?
  • Product and/or service quality
  • Price
  • Communications and messaging
  • Responsiveness
  • How well you look after their data
  • Developing new products or services that meet their needs and wants
  • Do they know what your organisation’s aims for the future are? Have they seen your ‘roadmap’? If so, what do they think of it?
  • What they think of your people. How does this match up with the employee view?

Techniques such as sentiment analysis can help give insight into some of these.

  1. What would they like to see you do for them next?

They may just tell you!

THE BOTTOM LINE

“Fundamentally…

…how engaged are your customers with your organisation?

…how relevant do they see what you offer to them being?”

Can you answer all of the above areas with confidence?

If you have answered ‘no’ or ‘not sure’ and need some help with this, let’s talk.