When many people think of the word “strategy,” they start to conjure up images of a long-term plan built around some theoretical idea that may never happen. Unfortunately, many well-intended, traditional strategies have been outdated attempts at predicting the future that were beset by the realities of market changes, bad data, and, more often than we’d like to admit, a simple lack of follow-through. Over the past few years, we’ve seen the planning horizon for strategic roadmaps become shorter and shorter as markets become more and more fluid. Because of these trends, an effective strategy – in particular a modern, digital strategy – is a different beast.
By our definition, strategy is really about dealing with one thing: uncertainty. Uncertainty about what to do, why you should do it, and how to get there. An intelligent strategy helps you figure what is important so you aren’t distracted by things that aren’t. A thoughtful strategy keeps you from wasting your limited time and resources on things that don’t matter. A practical strategy zeroes in how to get started quickly – not just where to finish. If there was ever a time to deal with uncertainty, it is now.
I’ve been impressed by the determination and humanity I’m seeing in our communities as we come together to contend with this pandemic. Our personal safety and public health are top priorities right now, even as we continue to adapt to new working conditions and a volatile business climate. We are all dealing with business uncertainty in every corner, which may be challenging a strategic roadmap or playbook that was your entire mission just two weeks ago. Since strategies did not predict this future, we’re all wondering what to keep working on and what can simply wait. We would like to see our clients be responsive – not just reactive – which is why we wanted to share our thoughts on why strategy is critical to resolving uncertainty.
What Are the Priorities Right Now?
Teddy Roosevelt famously said, that “in any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” You have to act, but what are your options and how do you decide? You have will more ideas than you have time and resources for, and a structured method can narrow down which ones are worthwhile, and the handful that are actually feasible. Diverse, imaginative ideas with a focus on customer growth is not just for your capital budgeting cycle. It’s also for figuring out what to do right now.
Resolve Just Enough Uncertainty to Move Forward
Many risk-averse leaders feel like they need to know all of the facts before they start anything, and have a hard time taking advantage of the learning and feedback that comes from getting started intelligently. Prototyping or testing an idea quickly can shed more light on the problem and reveal gaps you didn’t know about, which can get you to a working solution faster than thinking you can get all of the facts on the table up front. Don’t be reckless, but as you think about your options, think about the minimum you need to know to get started. Perficient’s CX AMP approach is designed for situations where you need to think big, but start small and act fast.
Align Your People
Traditional, everyday organizational structures are designed for resilience, repeatability, and, ultimately, high efficiency. But they are also designed for the daily operational routine. In our longitudinal CX IQ benchmark, we’ve proven over and over again that organizational alignment is the critical ingredient to digital transformation, because it bears itself out in the daily operational routine. Strategy says we need to ensure alignment, and current events would dictate that we need to rethink alignment. Last week, restaurant owners across the U.S. suddenly became delivery drivers and teachers had to develop online curriculums, many for the first time. We all need to think creatively about how to execute differently.
Empathy as a strategy is a relatively new concept, gaining a foothold with underlying approaches like Design Thinking and Jobs-To-Be-Done. Empathy comes from a deliberate and deep understanding of your customers problems, their needs and preferences, and how the world and the market is changing around them. We build empathy through quantitative and qualitative study, through our own experiences, and through experimentation and, let’s face it, some luck. Putting your customers first is nothing new, but understanding the broader dynamic – particularly how it might be changing at the regional, city, and even neighborhood level – right now is more critical than ever.
Build for Agility and Change
Hopefully your organization, its culture, and its systems are modular and flexible enough to adapt quickly. We have been shaping strategies that are as effective at reacting to changes as they are at meeting a specific goal, but we realize that not everyone has that level of agility.
Strategy is not the answer to everything right now, but I hope you keep these strategic tools in mind as you deal with ongoing uncertainty.