How to rapidly execute your business strategy in today’s turbulent times

There are long-term implications for industries like retail, transportation, travel, hospitality, etc. Organisations in these disrupted industries must quickly adapt or change their business and service models to serve new consumer behaviours to survive and thrive and to take advantage of new business opportunities presented.

Time will be of the essence. Being the first to the finish line and to take advantage of new opportunities presented will be the key to a successful recovery in a post-COVID-19 world. 

Organisations must respond to changing consumer attitudes

The pandemic has fundamentally changed the world as we know it. People are living, buying and spending differently. Relationships with consumers, customers and employees have been redefined.

Consumers across the globe are looking at products, services and even brands through a new lens.

In many ways, people are thinking differently. Shopping habits and the way people spend their money have changed permanently.

Consumer priorities have become centred on the most basic needs, sending the demand for hygiene, cleaning and staples products soaring, while non-essential categories have slumped, at least for the short to medium term. 

Supply chains have been disrupted and tested. Retailers are closing their doors permanently. Consumers are buying local. Digital commerce is booming. Entertainment, learning and DIY have risen. 

People will be prioritising more time with their family and friends. Many will use their vehicle more to avoid crowds.

There are reluctance and even hesitation to make new purchases like cars due to personal financial, job security and economic concerns.

People who have never worked from home previously are now planning to work from home more often in the future. 

Organisations need new strategies to survive

As such, new products and services will be required to meet the change in consumer attitude. Preferences have shifted or changed substantially during the pandemic.

Business, operating or service models must pivot or be changed entirely to deliver new products, services and opportunities in the shortest possible time to meet the change in consumer attitudes and preferences.

To respond to this change, businesses will require new strategies and corporate plans to be formulated quickly as economies are starting up and social distancing rules relaxed. 

Once new business strategies have been formulated, it will require a ruthless but rapid execution of these strategies. Only the timely and effective implementation of these new strategies will determine which businesses will survive and thrive, and which will fail.

What is interesting is that businesses will all have to start/restart at the same time, thanks to governments announcing start dates for the reopening of their economies and boarders. Thereafter, it is survival of the fittest where time will be of the essence especially for businesses in disrupted industries like retail, hospitality and travel.

Unfortunately, many executives will be tempted to use their pre-pandemic strategy as a start point. Some may even be tempted to layer-on ‘new’ strategies over existing ones. But they shouldn’t.

The reality is that their operating context or environment has significantly changed and disrupted as the result of the pandemic. There are significant economic and social fallout to watch out for. Many organisations are or will be highly vulnerable during this period. 

It is best to look at the challenge with fresh eyes.

The bottom line is that business strategies in the post-pandemic world will look so different for many. Business strategies must relate to where the business is at right now, reflecting known uncertainties about the near-term future, at least until economies start to return to pre-pandemic levels. 

Whether we are talking about corporates, not-for-profits, or government agencies, leaders and executives will have to change the way they run their business today and how they will run them tomorrow.

The customers that they know previously may not be the same today or even tomorrow. The ‘new’ normal will not be the same as the ‘old’ normal. Rapid change and disruption will only become the ‘new’ normal.

Organisations need a rapid execution to succeed

When more intense competition is placed on businesses to succeed, many organisations will be under pressure to rapidly execute their new strategies right the first time. 

Speed and time to market will be vital to take advantage of the new opportunities presented by the pandemic. 

Rapid implementation of strategies will be required for organisations to succeed and thrive in the post-COVID-19 world.

Organisations that execute their new strategies better and faster will outperform their competitors and take the price.

There is no second chance when everyone is starting at the same time — when the government lifts restrictions. The margin for error will be so small that there is no time to waste. There is also no time to make mistakes.

This means that everyone in the organisation must be on board to successfully implement their new strategies.

Rapid but effective strategy execution will be the key determinants for business success or failure. It is only through the rapid implementation that executives will bring new strategies to life in the shortest possible time, translating what looks good on paper into reality and ultimately, into successes and opportunities.

Closing the execution gap

Unfortunately, strategies at many organisations are almost completely disconnected from its execution or implementation.

A ‘good’ strategy must be implementable. 

Both strategy and execution must go together to realise the benefits of an effective corporate planning process.

Within the context of the post-COVID-19 recovery, our equation can be reframed as:

New Strategies + Rapid Execution = Survival

The good news is that there is an assessment tool that you can use to identify areas where there are gaps in your strategy execution —

The assessment questions itself can be your roadmap for survival. 

Once you have identified the areas where you need to close the execution gap, it is then time to take immediate action. 

Strategy execution is difficult

I am not going to sugar coat this. 

Strategy execution is or can be difficult. It can be more difficult when the strategy execution process is over-engineered. But it does not need to be that way as the power of simplification prevails.

There is also very little guidance on strategy execution to help executives navigate through this topic. There are more management books written about strategy, strategy formulating and strategic planning than on the topic of strategy execution or implementation.

Granted, strategy execution is not glamorous. This task is usually relegated to operational managers to execute. It is a job considered done by executives once the corporate plan has been published with lots of pretty graphs and diagrams and nicely bound. And it is likely to be sitting on a bookshelf!

But as Winston Churchill once said, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.

If the published strategy cannot be effectively implemented or be successfully translated into tangible outcomes, then the strategy itself is flawed or unimplementable. 

It is only through the act of translating the strategy into tangible results that we will ever know whether the strategy itself is good or faulty in the first place. 

Do you have a faulty strategy or a faulty execution? Or both?

Are the results that you are getting now due to a faulty strategy or to faulty execution of the solid strategy?

Herein lies two problems or risks that corporate executives must overcome:

  • Poor strategy execution that prevents organisations from achieving their vision and strategic goals — This is the faulty execution problem.
  • Inferior strategies that prevent organisations from effectively translating them into action and successes — This is the faulty strategy problem.