Rethinking Corporate Strategy For The Duration
It has become more than a cliche to hear everyone from consumers to parents, governments to corporations to talk about the “the new normal,” how life has changed as a result of COVID-19. While there are many references and versions, meanings, and definitions, nowhere has this phrase likely had more impact then on corporate America. No one has more to lose than big businesses where strategies, tactics, financing, and the like have changed dramatically all at the same time redefining what normal means to them and their organizations. Corporate life pre-COVID-19 is a thing of the past and has left many C-Suite executives scrambling with what to do next to survive. Companies who used to be able to wait out challenging quarterly storms can no longer rest on their laurels. Gone are the days of making a few tactical tweaks to the business to change course or, better still, implementing a new process to help redirect an effort. The corporate landscape has been reborn and, for those companies unprepared, the proverbial struggle is real. Any company leadership that thinks they can sit back and wait it out is in for quite the surprise.
COVID-19 Was Merely A Catalyst For Change
COVID-19 is not the cause of a short-term earnings slip, a poor performing product, or high staff turnover. It has flipped the world on its head and changed how we live. This is not about changing strategy because of COVID-19. COVID-19 was merely a catalyst for change. It has called to the forefront the need for companies to rethink their strategies for the long-term. This time it was COVID-19, next time might be supply chain disruption, the firing of the Board of Directors, or changes in the tax code. COVID-19 has enlightened us to new ways of thinking, new ways of doing things. There was no way to plan for COVID-19, no expectations, no one had lived through a pandemic previously to know what was coming down the pike. As such, companies got caught in situations and challenges for which they had no experience to know how to address. Fast forward to today. We are now several months into the new reality and companies are at the pinnacle of change not knowing where to turn, how to turn, or what to turn to.
It’s Not About Simply Improving Your Business, You Don’t Have To Work This Way Anymore
This change calls for a complete overhaul in strategic direction, implementation, and execution. Those management teams that don’t recognize the severity of the situation will soon find themselves either cutting staff, closing locations, borrowing to the hilt, and/or all of the above. Today’s corporate environment requires an entirely new way of thinking, doing, measuring, and managing.
In the simplest of forms, C-Suite executives who are not open-minded or willing to make drastic changes to their entire operations, sales, and marketing strategies should check their names at the door and call their local recruiters because the gig is up. Even in this digital economy in which we currently live, too many CEOs are stuck in traditional non-digital leadership styles and put virtually no time into proactively improving the company or its processes. All too often you’ll find big companies neglecting the most important of processes as they are deemed dependent on other departments. In the end, it’s just an excuse. In fact, C-Suite executives are notorious for creating excuses and reasons for why such a result or solution can’t, doesn’t or won’t work when in reality they have never even had the willingness to consider trying to institute change. The larger the company, typically, the more critical objectives which ultimately create a sense of overload where nothing gets done. With so many balls in the air, it becomes too difficult for the CEO to prioritize any one objective so as a result, nothing at all happens.
Alternatively, a company that implements a digital management system gives the CEO a system to control and measure the most important items effectively and efficiently.
Comparing Traditional vs. Digital Styles
Let’s compare and contrast the same scenario in a company that operates under more traditional methodologies with those of a company that is a digitally-inclined management system.
Traditional Management Style
The strategy for this operating style is presented at the beginning of the year by the CEO to the entire organization. The leadership team is competent and presents the expectations and desired KPIs with the list of deliverables, priorities, and improvements. The organization tracks and measures the outcomes in Excel sheets or an equally simple tool. The business hums along as documented on their spreadsheet until it doesn’t. In this type of environment, the CEO and management rush to put out unexpected fires or deals with challenges that were unforeseen. They live under pressure and are constantly moving from situation to situation dealing with urgency as it arises while abandoning other pre-scheduled areas that are forced to be canceled. The management team has evaluated different types of strategies and opportunities but resolved that the effort was just too much for their organization, and passed. As such, year after year, the same scenario persists.
Further down the chain, where 85% of the employees exist – and are responsible for growth and improvement – you find confusion, inability to prioritize, lack of focus, and poor optimization of resources. It is in this genre where the wheels are spinning, departments don’t know what to do next, divisions can’t define how to improve their bit, and over and over the same situation prevails. Everyone shows up for work every day and does their respective job but nothing changes. Picture well-trained robots who mean well and care deeply but remain stuck in a rut, lacking direction and definition. When nothing changes, nothing changes. Ask any employee the revenue targets or specific data sets and they can repeat them like an ivy league scholar. Ask them how to institute change you are met with blank stares.
Needless to say, this company finds it difficult to achieve any meaningful growth and in more than 90% of the cases, the Employee Satisfaction Index (ESI) is below the industrial average. At this company, the CEO has a backseat position where they steer and break with an outdated set of systems and tools. They receive reactive information from the lower levels which then require unscheduled time to address the fire drill which takes them away from whatever proactive activity they had been prioritizing that had been intended to deliver growth.
By way of a numeric example, in this first company scenario, the CEO and management team spend on average 24 hours per year per executive on proactive work. These proactive efforts lead to 120 hours (1%) of proactive work for 85% of the balance of the company.
Business Agile Leadership
Looking at our example from another company perspective. At this company, the CEO and management team are clearly in the driver’s seat with digital tools to measure execution. This company has complemented the agile and proactive approach previously used in only some of the company’s departments with more Business Agile trends, meaning that the most important areas are prioritized and determined first. The starting point is the most important goal for the entire company and the process is managed through software that looks the same in every department throughout the entire organization. By keeping uniform systems and tools, you remove the resources required for managing, hosting, and training on multiple networks.
The CEO communicates through digital channels first to their deputies who are then responsible for further communicating down the line, also through digital channels so there is no room for miscommunication. This streamlined communication requires the entire company to prioritize harder and free up time from tasks that can be postponed or eliminated. In its simplest form, the best way to prioritize the most important elements is scheduling, positioning, and resources. Throughout the entire organization, employees are aware of where to be spending their time, both ‘free time’ and the critical business improvements that must occur imminently.
Enter more efficient scheduling. It is this segment of the organization where the power of improvement takes hold and where efficiencies are born. To be deemed an improvement, an effort must be measurable and the individual must be able to influence the most desired actions. This method results in an integrated top-down-bottom-up formation rather than the traditional and unaccommodating top-down communication process. The beauty of this methodology is that each week, at the same time, every executive hosts a short meeting focused exclusively on the key growth priority. The results of each departmental growth meeting are then compiled and sent up to the CEO through the chief reporting executives. By a set time, the CEO knows exactly whether the growth rate is on target and/or above or below expectation for the current week. This streamlined approach is measurable, demonstrable, and predictable.
Turning Traditional Methodologies Agile
What was just explained here in scenario two is what is known as Business Agile Leadership and is among the most effective initiatives found in business today. In short, Business Agile is highlighted by three distinct steps:
- The CEO, followed by his management team and every executive throughout the organization prioritizes the key objectives towards instituting meaningful growth
- The entire organization from the CEO down use the same digital support tools to operate, communicate and follow-up on the main initiatives allowing for measurable and predictable financial growth in each segment of the business which is then aggregated for the company at large
- The CEO hosts required meetings each week where the primary focus is the key objective and its weekly growth results. Once success is determined, the CEO and their team agree on the next target achievements to enhance financial growth for the following week.
The New Generation of Digital Growth Software
The beauty of this methodology lies not only in the efficiency and effectiveness of a laser focus on what is most important for achieving growth but also presents a sprint scenario where success metrics are determined frequently and time spent on less important tasks are freed up which in turn decreases stress levels and creates happier more effective employees. In more than 90% of cases, the ESI is increased since employees can clearly see their contributions to the economic growth of the company. Business Agile has proven to deliver a 40% increase in revenue and a 52% increase in profit compared to similar indexes.
Meet Howwe from Reforce International – Your Company’s New Best Friend
The tools of yesterday including Excel, Balance Scorecard, and other traffic light tools are not designed to accelerate, control, or follow-up according to Business Agile principles. The new leading proactive applications, such as Reforce International’s Howwe, take minimal time to manage and provide favorable features and benefits that make them a joy to use among employees. By using a tool like Howwe you are providing your team an easy, effective, and accountability building path out of the rut of ‘nothing changes’ despair that is both no longer necessary and already burdening them with what they know is unproductive time, wasted resources, and engagement.