by: Luzita Kennedy
Strategic Reviews for the future
Family business owners and their teams strive to make the best decisions they can, based on the information at hand.
More often than not, those decisions rely heavily on the expertise and trusted ‘gut feel’ that is second nature to patriarchs or matriarchs.
Future-proofing your organization is a team sport, requiring input from all players. GPA recommends three key focus areas for organizations seeking to adapt their strategy and position themselves for a successful present and future amid the pandemic.
COVID-19 has affected even the most successful and stable of enterprises, causing confident and seasoned business owners to experience uncertainty and ambiguity regarding decisions which have to be made that can have impacts for years to come. Nonetheless, when facing unprecedented and uncertain times filled with cascading impacts on businesses, industries and communities it is imperative that leaders not lose sight of the big picture, be prepared to be agile as conditions unfold and implement strategic approaches that enable their organizations to maintain and grow market share.
There is a subtle but important difference between being agile and responsive versus reactive to unprecedented and sustained disruptive events. In addition to ensuring your organization has a robust long term strategy that speaks to a 3 year horizon (Heightened Awareness of the Obvious | GPA, 2020), GPA recommend adopting a pandemic-fit agile approach to strategy. Reviewing and optimizing strategy at frequent intervals will enable your organization to mitigate emerging threats and harness ever evolving opportunities (Kennedy, 2020).
Considering the rapidly shifting landscape, generating and optimizing an adaptive strategy may not be the best achieved using traditional or rigid strategic frameworks. Conducting a SWOT analysis, reviewing financials and monitoring competitor activity is still important, but what becomes more front and centre is assessing the shifting business environment and making sure that you are able to maintain stability. Business models are in a state of flux, and client/customer needs are evolving on a daily basis, so staying alert and keeping a vigilant eye on the marketplace for opportunities to adapt and stay ahead of the pack is essential. This translates to staying in touch with customers and staff, soliciting opinions, and searching for facts.
Revisiting strategy more frequently enables business leaders to review and, if needed, reframe their understanding of the environment and making reasonably rapid strategic adjustments (Reeves, Lang and Carlsson-Szlezak, 2020). Evaluating the success of implementation, questioning approaches and the examining assumptions during frequent strategic reviews empowers leaders to take corrective action swiftly. By focusing attention during strategic reviews, organizations can also encourage their teams to develop a hyper-awareness of existing and emerging competitors.
Furthermore, examining the organization’s current processes and ensuring they are congruent with a continuously evolving ‘organic’ approach to strategy (Spruit, Dixon and Campbell, 2020), will help propel the business forward even in these uncertain times.
GPA recommends the following practical considerations when adopting an agile approach to strategy:
“Unity in a business is a powerful force for success and sustainability. By addressing internal challenges in a constructive way, business leaders across generations can place the organization on a solid recovery and growth trajectory,” Kennedy asserts.
Decide on a strategy review frequently that works for your organization
While we recommend a quarterly strategic review or ‘check-in’, each organization has different requirements. Perhaps your industry is rapidly evolving and a more frequent review interval would be better suited to your needs. Remember, the review process should not be a long-winded, cumbersome, (seemingly) never-ending meeting. It should be an action-oriented snapshot, highlighting what’s working, what isn’t, what has changed in the environment and who is going to do what and when to ensure the organization stays on course to its objectives.
Ask and answer tough question honestly
The best strategies can go awry during implementation due to policy, process and/ or people, challenges. During strategic review sessions, to identify where corrective steps need to be taken, consider asking yourself and your team:
- What policies and processes do we want to put in place to allow us to react even more quickly?
- Which of our systems, technical or otherwise, are not being fully optimized so as to be more efficient and agile?
- How can we enhance our Finance Reporting function perform during this time?
- Which areas of governance need improvement?
- What areas of our supply chain need to be strengthened or streamlined?
- Are there business opportunities (people, competitors, markets) we should go after now given their erosion of value?
- Where and how we can we dramatically improve client contact?
- Who is stepping up and showing leadership, commitment and loyalty, and who is not?
- Who are the most competent staff and whose absence is not noticed or experienced?
- Which business units are making a contribution to the enterprise and which are a greater bother than they are worth?
- What am I, as a business leader, learning about myself and what can I do more or less of?
Prioritize key focus areas and optimize gradually
The pandemic has impacted businesses globally, placing unprecedented stress on business owners and leaders. We are acutely aware of this as we go through the strategy conversations with clients, and we believe our responsibility as GPA is to alleviate that burden, not add to it.
Strategic review is a fine-tuning or adjustment process, determining what’s working and what needs to be tweaked. We’re always conscious of keeping things simple – not to stress the system. It’s a collaborative process. With the client’s input, we extract the best out of current working practices and identify which key areas could to be tweaked to rapidly derive maximum benefit.
We believe it’s vital to respect the way that people have been operating and optimize instead of changing everything and invalidating the hard work and investment that has already gone in. PKA’s philosophy has always been that we do things with our clients, not to our clients. We will never impose a view. We believe in adopting a customized approach, tailored to each family.
Kennedy, L., 2020. Navigating COVID-19 Successfully By Adopting Both A Future-Focused And Real-Time Relevant Approach To Strategy | GPA. [online] GPA. Available at: <https://gpulvermacherassociates.com/futureproofing-your-business/> [Accessed 17 August 2020].
PKA. 2020. Heightened Awareness Of The Obvious | PKA. [online] Available at: <https://gpulvermacherassociates.com/heightened-awareness-of-the-obvious/> [Accessed 17 August 2020].
Reeves, M., Lang, N. and Carlsson-Szlezak, P., 2020. Lead Your Business Through The Coronavirus Crisis. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: <https://hbr.org/2020/02/lead-your-business-through-the-coronavirus-crisis> [Accessed 17 August 2020].
Spruit, H., Dixon, J. and Campbell, A., 2020. Covid-19 And The End Of Static Strategy. [online] Bain. Available at: <https://www.bain.com/insights/covid-19-end-static-strategy/> [Accessed 17 August 2020].