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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 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.

Challenges

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.

Know your remote audience!

Working from home – how to communicate effectively with your team – top tips

Have you ever wondered why sometimes people don’t react to what you say in the way that you would expect them to?

With the current advice being to work from home, if you can, many of us are in a work situation that is very different from anything that we are used to.

To make sure that organisations and their people remain effective it is vital that we continue to communicate as effectively as we can.

Understand behavioural styles

It is easy to assume that everyone responds in the same way to the way we communicate but they don’t. One of the key factors is our behavioural style. This has an impact on our preferred communication approach which affects how we expect others to communicate with us. This is especially important when it is a manager or team leader communicating with us in the work situation.

Be aware of body language

As managers or team leaders of remote teams, one of the key sets of non-verbal signals that we use in communication – body language – is either partly or completely removed depending on the medium we are using. So it is more important than ever that we try to get our approach right for each person we are communicating with.

What can we do?

One of the tools that is particularly useful in identifying the behavioural characteristics of individuals is the Thomas Personal Profile Analysis (PPA). This can provide an insight into your and your team’s communication preferences.

The PPA measures preferences around four core behavioural and communication styles1:

TOP TIPS:

  1. Know your behavioural style and preferences
  2. Know your team’s behavioural styles and preferences
  3. Modify your style to match theirs when you communicate with them

Dos and Don’ts for communication with individuals with each style

These are dos and don’ts for communicating with your team.  Bear in mind your own preferences will have an influence on your natural approach.

ACTIVE

PASSIVE

Next steps

If you would like to find out more about how the PPA could help you and/or your team please get in touch.

Steve Bax is an accredited practitioner for PPA (Personal Profile Analysis), HPTI (High Potential Trait Indicator), and TEIQue (Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire) assessments (Thomas International). 

With thanks to Thomas International for some of the content detail.  For more information on using the PPA to help make remote working communication successful, see the excellent blog by Jayson Darby at Thomas International here