While many companies are past the initial emergency response, they now need to start looking ahead as well. Business requires a proactive and agile approach to business performance to address the immediate future beyond the pandemic and create a minimum viable plan.
Three activities business leaders will need to start now:
- Start capturing lessons learned
- Develop medium-term scenarios
- Create minimum viable plans
1. Start Capturing Lessons Learned
The COVID-19 crisis has created unique pressures for organizations and their staff. It has revealed much about what works and what doesn’t in terms of products, infrastructure, processes and procedures, and culture. It’s important to understand these responses and use them as an input for planning beyond the immediate response phase.
The approach to this is twofold. First of all, you want to get a quick view of what is playing out inside your organization and filter out the tactical from strategic issues. The team should escalate tactical issues to the emergency response team who can then decide to put a quick fix in place to support staff to continue to do their jobs.
The strategic issues are worth a closer look as these could surface barriers that require a more structural solution. Look for issues around customer-facing elements of the core business model, e.g. sales, servicing, pricing, as well as more internally focused on working practices, organizational structures and culture.
As the business environment remains uncertain and volatile, we need to introduce short cycle reviews for these strategic learnings as different scenarios might unfold.
2. Develop Medium-Term Scenarios
The second activity is to start developing scenario’s that illustrate how the post-pandemic environment future may unfold.
Inputs to this scenario activity include COVID-19 driven changes as entire industries are put on hold while others face a drop in demand, and the government introduces new legislation. Some of these changes might be more permanent while others are transient or recurring with new waves of COVID-19 cases.
But equally important is to combine these with pre-crisis shifts in digitization that are only accelerating as many of us have had to adapt to 100% working remotely. These scenarios will force many to rethink how value is delivered and what new opportunities will emerge when.
Business leaders and front line staff, who are the eyes and ears of the organization closest to the customer will have provided valuable insights through the lessons learned exercise that are a crucial input to these scenarios.
Once we have formulated these alternative futures and narrowed in on one that we have conviction about we can work back to the present and start creating our minimum viable plan.
3. Create a Minimum Viable Plan
Use both the lessons learned and scenario’s to align on your “vision for success” for the medium term.
This vision of success should be a mix of expectations around how the business will perform, such as customer demand and channels, business processes and technology, financial and portfolio, organizational and people development.
This vision of success can be translated into objectives and are the foundation to develop minimum viable plans for the business going forward in the medium term. The plan should address the positioning of the company and what the impact will be on current initiatives and budgets. Business leaders should realize that as things can and will change rapidly, they must be prepared to course-correct quickly and iterate their plans.
The nature of change and economic activity over the next 18 months is highly uncertain. Therefore the minimum plan and related assumptions will need to be kept under continuous review to ensure that the objectives remain relevant and aligned with the external environment and further lessons learned. We suggest that businesses create a dedicated (virtual) PMO to facilitate this process and work closely with the c-suite.
In times of considerable uncertainty, it is better to have a plan and be flexible than have no plan at all.