Planning for 2020: Navigating Tailwinds & Headwinds!


Things are great, revenues are growing, you’ve hired some key people and have open positions for so many more but you’re taking your time. You want those experienced passive candidates. You’ve streamlined operations, you’re leveraging some new technologies and you’ve even formed an innovation team. So why plan for headwinds when the tailwinds are so strong? How is it that tailwinds can create such turbulence inside your company? Great questions, right? I’ll share a few reasons planning for headwinds is important now when things are good and some strategies to help with your planning.

“The balance of power is shifting toward consumers and away from companies… The right way to respond to this if you are a company is to put the vast majority of your energy, attention and dollars into building a great product or service and put a smaller amount into shouting about it, marketing it.” Jeff Bezos, founder.

So much is going well for businesses. So why stop to plan for times that might not go so well. Why consider making any changes or transformative moves right now. “We’re doing great!”

Let’s look at some noted predictions from Gartner:

  • By 2021, more than 50% of enterprises will be spending more per annum on bots and chatbot creation than traditional mobile app development.
  • In 2020, AI becomes a positive net job motivator, creating 2.3 million jobs while only eliminating 1.8 million jobs.
  • Personal data poisons blockchain: By 2022, 75% of public blockchains will suffer “privacy poisoning” — inserted personal data that renders the blockchain noncompliant with privacy laws.
  • Cloud spawns new products: Through 2022, a fast path to digital will be converting internal capabilities to external revenue-generating products using cloud economics and flexibility.

How ready is your organization to tackle these changes? What are you doing today to prepare for the future? The best time to prepare for change is not when you most need change. The time to plan and anticipate needs is when are in great shape! I hear often, “we just don’t have enough resources to work on new strategies right now.” and “It’s just not a priority, things are going well!” In some cases, companies have established a small team working on new projects, new products, and innovation strategies. Some challenges shared with us faced by these internal innovation teams are noted below:

  • We feel isolated from the rest of the organization
  • There is not enough funding or resources to get an innovation project to pilot or beta stages
  • Most of the organization does not understand data and new technology impacts. They don’t believe there is anything to worry about
  • We’re not keeping pace with the rate of change or competitive threats
  • “Innovation efforts are stressing the day to day priorities, therefore, we just simply don’t move, certainly not at the speed of innovation”
  • There are too many new ideas and products in development.

Note that on the other side of the fence, the C-Suite, asks the magic question: “where is the business case & justification for funding or added resources, what kind of an ROI can we expect?”

Competing for resources in organizations has been a long-standing challenge. But more so now than ever before! The exponential speed of technology change is forcing companies to change just to keep pace with the competition. Keeping up with the “Jones” has become a challenging requirement. Also, headwinds, all too often, hit unexpectedly. Competition comes out of nowhere! How can you plan for this?

“The time your game is most vulnerable is when you’re ahead. Never let up.” — Rod Laver, Adidas

Consider that now is the best time to play the “what if” and “anticipation” game. What could you be doing to plan for headwinds during a tailwind economy? “What if” we don’t do anything new right now? “What if” others get there before we do?

There are simple things any company can be doing right now that will pay off for years to come. Below are a few steps you can take while things are good and the Tailwinds are giving you great lift!

No alt text provided for this image
  1. Upskill Current Talent: One of the most important things to consider is upskilling your current talent pool for the age of AI and automation. In the article: These Industries Will Face the Biggest Talent Shortages by 2030, it lists the many industries that will face future (if not already) talent shortages. Add on top of a shortage of skilled talent, the fact that 21st-century skills needed will also be in short demand these talent shortages may create
  2. Disrupt Your Company – Time and time again, disrupt yourselves; reinventing, pivoting, anticipating changes that could occur. Sitting in a room full of executives from an F-100 Consumer goods company, I introduced the idea that a few college students sitting around a coffee shop somewhere in Sweden had launched a competitive product and decided to give it away for free. What would this potentially do to their business if consumers started to adopt that product? The team laughed it off for the most part but did come up with a few strategies as part of the offsite session. This team felt overly confident they could not be unseated. Two years later, to their total shock, a group of graduates launched a competitive product with a very disruptive business model. It impacted the sales and market share of the Fortune company. These executives are no longer at the company. Their replacements took very diligent steps, using Design Thinking methodology to create personalized and innovative new products. This is not a fast process. There is no fast process. All the more reason to take steps today considering the “what if”!
  3. Keep Eyes on The Global Market: Impacts come from all over the world. Anticipating challenges and putting contingency plans together can help guard against business losses. For example: “companies with UK-based operations have begun to trigger their Brexit contingency plans after a prolonged period of waiting, planning, and more waiting. In addition to shifting investments out of the UK, firms will also start to relocate jobs.” The Guardian What are your contingency plans for a downturn economy? Have you looked at diversification of your market or product lines to ensure minimal impacts on sales and opportunities in a downturn? How vulnerable would your company be in a downturn? Have you assessed the possible impacts?
  4. Develop a Proactive Innovation Culture: Gartner predicts:By 2020, IoT technology will be in 95% of electronics for new product designs. So what are your company’s long- term product development strategies? How are your prioritizing investments to be made? What is your data monetization strategy? Do you have a data monetization strategy? What will your customers look like in 2025? What will your company be known for in 2025? How are you resourcing up, skilling up to make the necessary investments to get there today? Answering to these questions now while things are going great is important. Investing in the longer term may prove life-saving!
  5. Build a Pivot Plan – We have a pivot assessment and methodology we use when helping our client companies strategize their future. Doing a deep dive may prove to be of great value to your planning efforts. Assessing your business is not about who you are today and what you sell today. It is about whom your company wants to be in the future and what is it going to take to get there. What are those competitive pressures, what skill sets will you need in your company? What technologies will impact your organization?
  6. Revamp your Decision Methodologies: What? You don’t have a decision process? Consider these points when revamping or building your process: a. keep the decisions as factual and unbiased as possible, b. create a prioritization matrix and provide ratings to these priorities, c. build an opportunity benefit matrix weighted against opportunity cost, d. make the process consistent, e. invest in training the organization on the process, f. consider your company culture in all decisions.

Download our free infographic for more information:

No alt text provided for this image

7. Inventory your product and solution offerings- Where is your revenue coming from today? Evaluate how technologies will impact these solutions in the future. For example, how cognitive computing disrupt these offerings? How might quantum computing change the game in your industry and disrupt the products and services you offer? How are converging technologies impacting your business today? Anticipating the impacts is half the battle and building a long term game plan to remain relative in your industry is imperative.

Build a plan, reassess that plan often, prepare your people for the future. Also, assess the risks of taking action, but also understand the opportunity risks for not taking that action! Innovation+Action = Value

Teresa Spangler, CEO, Plazabridge Group and Author, All That I Am Now That I Know17 Life Lessons for Women Entrepreneurs

More to explore