See around Corners and Pivot: 5 Tips for Mastering Risk and Uncertainty

 In Executive Strategy, Musings

Growth is happening. Exciting new startups are fighting their way toward recognition, rolling out amazing disruptive technologies that are hitting the market with lightning speed. As electric as all of this is, it complicates the business landscape with risk and uncertainty. While there have been several success stories, many medium and large enterprises are feeling the heat from these new challenges. One primary reason is, entrenched businesses adopt a business-as-usual mindset. This mindset acts as a set of blinders and buffers decision makers from addressing the actual problems. In essence, a company may see the earth shifting around them, but does not move to higher ground either through risk aversion or they are happier with the devil they know. The prevailing thought is, the old methods are still making them money; If it aint broke don’t fix it, right? Wrong. This is backwards thinking, it may not be broken yet but it is breaking. If you don’t begin to read the tea leaves, flexibly develop new strategies, and execute those strategies rapidly then you’re dead in the water.

PBG helped our clients find success in new markets, develop new revenue streams, and launch innovative new products all during the post-2008 lean times. Our clients thrived because we helped them See around Corners and Pivot.

Here are five tips to help you see the next bend in the road and seize the advantage for your company.

 

Seeing Around Corners

Develop Perceptual Acuity

This is a critical skill to develop and it is an easy one to intellectually understand, but it is also the first thing dropped when we are in the thick of the weeds day-to-day. It is hard to pull back and assess the lay of the land. Developing perceptual acuity requires adopting a unique perspective that combines the fifty thousand foot view with strategic deep dives looking for catalysts that can spur change. The real trick of this skill is that it is not just reading the news there is a bit of alchemy to its effective use. Perceptual acuity requires you to strike a balance between intelligence, knowledge, perception, and intuition to equal actionable insight.

 

Take a Long Hard Look in the Mirror

Seeing around corners is not just about looking for the change on the outside, but also looking inside. It is time to face the hard existential truths about your organization’s values, capabilities, culture, markets, strategies and organizational goals. Seeking to align the organization towards a realistic, focused, agile, growth minded strategy is the only way to navigate the complexities ahead. Are you facing “true north” or are you sailing against the winds of change? Understand that you don’t know what you don’t know, then find the right questions to ask.

 

Take the Pulse

Once you have the right questions, ask everyone. No, really. The modern business world is fascinated by metrics. A leading mantra is: what gets measured gets focused on. Take the time to conduct a little informal surveying along with those KPI’s you’ve got the guys in stats working on. Ask your peers what they’re seeing on the horizon, what pains they’re feeling, what new technologies they’re excited about. Ask the guy in front of you at Starbucks. Ask the lady on the metro. Ask. Ask. Ask. Then spend some time and weigh the answers you get against what you are personally seeing in the industry. Weigh them against what challenges you face. If you start seeing trends, start making plans on how your company can pivot to address this threat on the horizon?

 

Pivoting:

Rapid Strategic Response

It is not enough to read the tea leaves, you have to be able to respond quickly and strategically. Developing this ability will often require a restructuring of the organization, breaking of old paradigms of operation to develop rapidity. As PBG Partner, Tim Peters suggests, a strategic response must be “interactive, repeatable and malleable to the need at hand.” This is all necessary, but I will add that the soul of a rapid strategic response needs to come from decisive action in answer to a challenge, and the expedient and thorough communication of that action to the entire organization. Above all, that action needs to be based on both efficiency and profitability.

 

Always be Flowing

Bruce Lee taught us the power of Kung Fu, but also a beautiful philosophy of how we can handle organizational challenges. Be as water. Water flows around, over, or crashes through obstacles; water can move fast or slow, but if it is dammed up it loses momentum, becomes stagnant. For an organization to pivot effectively it must develop the flexibility that allows it to change direction quickly. With a rapid strategic response in place the production capability must be able to meet the organizational goals with equal alacrity. A production process that will take six months to a year to retool and rework to accommodate a new product line is simply not fast enough to address the quick changes in modern markets.

 

 

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