5 CEO Strategies to Help Restart 2020: The New Normal


“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” – T.S. Eliot, author

Do You Have New Normal Vision?

Where are you going now in 2020? How do you know it’s the best strategy for your company considering the pace of change, the acceleration of technologies and the level of global uncertainty not to mention the new skills required in the organization to plan and execute on these strategies. What’s potentially standing in the way of your organization’s continued success?

CEO Challenges

 A recent Gartner Study of top CEO concerns for 2020 yielded many concerns. Here are a few:

  • “Twenty-three percent of CEOs see significant impacts to their own businesses arising from recent developments in tariffs, quotas and other forms of trade controls. Another 58% of CEOs have general concerns about this issue, suggesting that more CEOs anticipate it might impact their business in the future.”
  • “On average, CEOs think that sales & marketing, risk, supply chain and HR officers are most in need of acquiring more digital savvy. Once all executive leaders are more comfortable with the digital sphere, new capabilities to execute on their business strategies will need to be developed.”
  • “Data-centric decision-making is a key culture and capability change in a management system that hopes to thrive in the digital age. Executive leaders must be a role model to encourage and foster data centricity and data literacy.”
  • Innovation and product transformation will be a priority, yet, there are gaps in skills and technical savvy to make these transformations.

There is good news here! Executives are more and more aware of the challenges the organization will face and realize actions must be taken.

"Technology product management leaders must look to improve and transform  product management processes, tools and people to stay competitive in  the rapidly evolving market. 
Senior Director Analyst, Gartner


It is daunting for many companies to tackle these challenges. Transforming culture, product, and the company is no easy task. In the work we do with our clients (15+ years working with more than 500 startups, 100’s of mid and large enterprise companies) we have developed method to the madness of transformative innovation and change. Our methodical process uncovers the answers to “We do not know what we do not know” for sure, however, when an organization has clear understanding of the challenges ahead we are able to move forward at a quicker pace. Is speed important? Quality and doing things right is more important but when we lay forth a tandem set of actions to get our clients moving more quickly we do so with a smoothness that maintains quality, encourages employee participation and mitigating anxieties of change. To work along side of individuals, leaders and teams we strategize, innovate, mentor, execute through these and many other top concerns challenging growth. So what could you do on your own should budget not allow for additional resources?

There are methodical steps you can take to tackle these growing concerns. I’ll share a few in just moment. It may also be helpful to understand some of the benefits to having an impartial party supporting your transformative plans:

  • Maintains an unbiased platform for decision making and prioritization
  • Mentoring strategies can fill skills gaps so self-sufficiency in the future is strong and trusted
  • Your team will get an outside view in. Many companies today are paying a fire, ready aim approach to business. For example; just building artificial applications because you need to be doing something with AI vs. understanding how your competencies turned to value, leveraging your inventoried assets, and delivered through digital means could have very different outcomes.
  • Bringing in startup or entrepreneurial experience may benefit the company culturally. Sure this function could add stress if not integrated in a way designed to align.

On your own or with an outside resource, it’s important to share insights on a regular basis with everyone in the organization. Having staff understand the purpose behind change initiatives may keep them more engaged. And some will step up with greater desire to lead and collaborate as part of any initiative. There are many additional benefits to seeking outside support, however, you may not be in position to add additional resources. In this case I share some things you can do on your own.

Some Steps To Take

Our first step is to 1frame the questions we need to answer and then put actions in motion to answer them strategically. For example; what real assets does the company have that could be valuable to their future? Where is all of our data, how is it organized (unstructured may not be an issue as it once was but it’s good to know what shape the data, structured or unstructured, is currently in)? What data could be considered as an asset and how would we use our data? Where would artificial intelligence serve us in our product strategies? How much do we know about AI, blockchain, cryptocurrencies, sensors, chatbots, …etc. If you don’t have a product or innovation strategy what steps could you take to put someone in charge and build a strategy?

2. We hear many times that resources are tight so current efforts with new “IP” (intellectual property assets) in R&D or innovation projects are just sitting dormant!” Inventory all of these assets. What state are they in?

3. Determine which critical challenges predominately inhibit your organizationfrom pivoting, continued growth, and/or change impacting the trajectory of future revenue. For over 15 years, we’ve observed patterns in these challenges our clients face and have organized them into seven buckets. These are noted below with a brief explanation.


By taking an audit of the organization we frame our actions to solve, mentor and execute on future strategies. The process is not to be over-simplified, however it needs not be over complex either. Standing still is not an option so start slow, pick one and move. We have these organized into a form of assessment. For you, just seek answers to the questions in our assessment buckets below. Following this section, I’ll share a few strategies that may help you attack the core concerns head on.

1. Organizational Incompatibility

Are the people currently in place at the organization incompatible with future needs? Select and/or train key personnel to produce maximum effectiveness in a collaborative growth environment. Identify skills gaps that meet the needs of the 21st century organization. Create a development program that fills the gaps but also develops individuals at all levels of the organization. Up-skilling is critical.

2. Market Constraints

Have competitors and market changes restricted future revenue potential by constraining current revenue sources? Align market need to product delivery and ensure company product strategy matches current and future market needs. This requires some deep market investigation. Are your partners becoming competitors in the new world? Are there new partnerships needed? Are you partnering with your customers in a way to help them and you keep pace with trends? What line of site do have on your new competition, startups getting funded in your space for example? What can you see that you should possibly be concerned about? Competition today is very different; it may not be visible.

3. Market Launch Failures

Has R&D yielded possible MVP to take to market but the launch process is not understood or deemed insignificant to revenue success? Coordinate launch with multiple channel participation combined with appropriate and differentiated messages to key target audiences. Failure can be very healthy if you use these missteps as reflections for learning how to recover and move forward.

4. ROI Prioritization

Are future strategic directions numerous and championed by internal owners while a prioritization of choices is based on personal perspectives? Bring clarity to the impacts of decisions through decision support awareness, which all management and employees can back, eliminating personality clashes. How does the business case or justification need to change to accommodate innovation activities? What is the plan for fail fast, recover faster? How will you even know failure in this new state?

5. “Make” vs. “Buy”

Is a decision for comparing acquisition and internal risks and rewards not forthcoming even though internal development is possible? Objectively determine the likelihood of success given the current internal team of developers vs. the advantages of rapid market entry. This is question that lives in the organizations. How do you make this decision today vs. how you need to think about it in 2020 and beyond. Are your vendors, suppliers or partners you depend on for development potentially your next competitor? Do you need to have more in-house skills to not have dependancies on things core to your business? How will you decide this on case by case basis?

6. Digital Transformation Disruption

Are advances required in revenue planning that include advanced digital transformation planning with impacts to the core product portfolio? Realize new sources of revenue and further differentiate products in the marketplace. Consider sunset opportunities.

7. Monetizing “Data” Products

Is the ability to collect data from a plethora of sources, from customers to market research, overwhelming you with opportunities? Develop new revenue sources with market expansion and reinvigorate setting product categories. This is one where we get very involved in many times as unbiased input, strategies and planning are very important and typically welcomed.

“90% of R&D leaders believe their pipelines are too slow, and report that one-third of their projects are behind schedule.” Gartner

5 Strategies For Driving Growth

Our team at Plazabridge Group employs (as part of our process):

  • quantitative models for decision prioritization,
  • utilization of standoff digital analysis tools on organizational behavior in form of AI and ML emerging tools,
  • skills gaps and mentor analysis perception modeling.

What talent do you have on your team or currently contracted that can assist you with these points? Is it necessary, in our world yes, but if you don’t have the available resources to spend or add then start where you can!

McKinsey reports in their June 2019 article Traditional Company, New Businesses: The pairing that can ensure an incumbent’s survival

“The list of long-established companies that have been disrupted by fast-moving, tech-enabled powerhouses gets longer by the day. Facing pressure from younger, more innovative challengers, many incumbent companies are also reinventing themselves through a dual effort to digitize their legacy businesses and create new enterprises.” 

5 Step Self-Performance -Assessment Formula

Below are some simple steps to help you with your own transformative planning. First reference Exhibit 1- This shows the formula for success and may assist you with planning by sharing it with teams.

PBG's strategy for success formula

1. Inventory All Possible= Assets

  • Be it data, people (remember they are assets), inventions, IP, products, content
  • Be clear about what you consider to be an INTERNAL ASSET vs. AN EXTERNAL ASSET. Competitiveness can come in many forms, internal assets such as customer data may fuel products or processes. An example would be drone delivery which uses customers location data or ride sharing which uses customers experiences of a driver with stars. Are all those stars by John the drivers name an asset to the company somehow?

2. Make Agility a Way of Life =Cultured Transformed

  • Definition of Agility: ability to move quickly and easily and ability to think and understand quickly. This may or may not be a complete culture shift for some.
  • Agile development approaches are taking shape and companies are hiring agile coaches to put processes in place for technology development practices but also everything from executive alignment, product management frameworks and much more.
  • Assess the company’s culture today by using some engagement services or survey tools, ask for help or seek advise

3. Remove Unnecessary Constraints = Growth Mindset

  • Reframe stringent processes
  • Remove political barriers as best you can.
  • If this is a big culture shift for the company, travel slowly and engage those that are more open and collaborative to help you

4. Leverage = SCALE

  • Leverage partners to reach more customers
  • Leverage new technologies and platforms to streamline operations, as example using chatbots to manage customer service and repurposing the people currently in those roles.
  • Where is the company slow, weighted down? How can you lighten up for movement?
  • Leverage training and development programs. There are so many online, apps, conversational bot applications to reach everyone in the organization that lack of development funds is no longer an excuse!

5. Transform – STARTUP MINDSET –

  • If you already have a startup mindset internally congrats! If not- this may not be as easy as it sounds- seek some outside thinking.
  • Join entrepreneur organizations… set up your own internal startup incubator

More to explore