By: connie siu

Summer 2020 Issue

Strategy setting is critical to a business’ roadmap to success. The last several months have exposed every business to uncertainties of shifting customer demands and behaviours as a result of the pandemic. Some of these changes may be permanent while others could be subject to further adjustments. Since no one can predict how things would unfold, setting the strategic direction for a business at this time could be a perplexing challenge.

Let’s take a closer look at how your strategy session might look like when you go through the exercise this year.

Strategic Direction
The long-term direction is set by thinking about what the business wants to be. Current changes in market demand and impacts on trends need to be taken into consideration in determining any shifts you want to incorporate.

In adjusting the strategic direction for your business, there are three questions you want to address:

1. What is the current strategic direction for the business?

2. What does our strategy suggest about how we should react to the changes in the market and customers we serve?

3. What new products and markets choices should the business consider?

The responses to these questions help to determine whether you need a reformulation, a modification or extension of the current strategy.

For example, a regional leadership training company which offers in-person programs and coaching might choose to expand internationally due to the increased receptiveness to virtual delivery as a result of lockdowns and physical distancing. To expand into international markets, the company would need to develop a market development strategy. In addition, new programs that relate to managing remote teams might be good candidates for new offerings.

Key Capabilities Needed
With a change in the strategic direction, the key capabilities required to support the market and product choices would differ. These key capabilities include technology, production, marketing, sales, distribution, supply chain, financing, and human resources.

As proficiency in these capabilities are critical, some of the questions you need to address include:

1. What changes in the key capabilities are necessary to support a shift in the strategic direction?

2. How would recent changes in customer behaviors impact the capabilities needed?

3. Does the organization have gaps in the capabilities required?

4. What investment(s) would make sense?

5. How do we reallocate the resources?

A thorough review of the required key capabilities reveal resource gaps that must be addressed. Accordingly, you could then come up with an appropriate timeline for achieving the strategic objectives.

For the leadership training company, investments in marketing and sales to enter the international markets would be a priority. In addition, there would be a need to adapt the training and coaching programs for effective virtual delivery. Program content developers and trainers might need to hone their expertise in subjects such as remote team management.

Coherence across the Business

For businesses which have multiple lines of business, it is essential to align their revised strategic direction throughout the organization. Without the alignment, competing priorities would hamper speed and create unnecessary conflicts.

To cascade the updated corporate strategic direction, there are three key questions to consider:

1. What is the revised mission for each business unit under the updated corporate strategic direction?

2. What impacts would there be on the market and products offered by each business unit?

3. How would the key capabilities required for each business unit change?

It is crucial to have a clear, explicit mission for each business unit to ensure there is coherence across the business. Otherwise, their respective plans would not complement each other and support the overall corporate direction.

The leadership training company mentioned above might need to establish a new team for international marketing and hire specialists on course content adaptation with a focus on cultural differences.

As you revisit your strategy, it is more than tweaking the current strategy. It is necessary to take a fresh perspective incorporating the latest market and customer intelligence, and develop a holistic direction that would help your business thrive.

Connie Siu helps businesses develop laser-focused strategies and build operational excellence. For more than 25 years, she has worked in the trenches with business leaders across a broad spectrum of industries. Connie has served on the board for Entre Nous Femmes Housing Society, the Institute of Certified Management Consultants of British Columbia, and the Transportation Committee for the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. To learn more about Connie’s work, visit: