Charting a New Course

vintage nautical detail of a steering wheel of a ship in front of the sea at sunset

With one wave of the pandemic storm over and economies opening up again, those companies that secured their finances and took the necessary steps quickly enough to survive or even thrive now need to turn their attention to getting back to business in some future state that is yet to be defined.

The “new normal” (a phrase now seriously overused) represents the going-forward market characteristics and business rules of engagement, driven by new behaviors and practices formed during and as a result of the social and business restrictions of the last few months. Although opinions and predictions abound, no real consensus about even the broad outlines of a future state exists in many industries, neither is it known whether current behaviors will persist or whether things will snap back to the way they were. So, leaders of companies, in turn, continue to find it difficult to define, much less execute, on a future strategy with any real conviction.

While it’s difficult to chart a course without a clear destination, leaders recognize the need to move their companies forward with a greater sense of urgency.  Doing so will allow them to address the current market; and, by actively engaging, they are positioning themselves to anticipate and perhaps even shape the nature of future demand and customer expectations for their products and services

Company leaders then need to decide in what direction their companies should set out and at what pace to operate.  To determine these, leadership must make an honest assessment and have an unbiased interpretation of the recent dynamics and trends of the market and the company.  For example, companies in industries and sectors involved in or using automation, remote connectivity and collaboration, security, online commerce, and communications infrastructure likely saw significant growth through this period and are likely to continue experiencing it.

The pandemic represents a catalyzing event that accelerated the adoption of trends that had been forming prior to the global lock-down.  To these companies, the current situation represents an opportunity to align products and services to new sources of demand, to bring forward new innovations and solutions, and to aggressively try to take share in the newly-forming market environment.  To them, answering questions of how to shift resources and capital to efficiently design, produce and deliver products and services from a hybrid work environment will also go a long way in determining their ability to compete effectively and profitably in the future.

At the other end of the spectrum, companies in spaces that were already experiencing structural decline because they were dependent on the movement and the presence of people to create demand and to deliver a product or service may have similar questions. These questions have more of an existential element to them, as the decline in these markets may accelerate in the post-pandemic world.  Here, future survivability of a company will likely depend on taking more bold, strategic investment and transformation moves to secure the capabilities necessary to stay competitive. Although the financial state in which they currently find themselves may limit the opportunity set, there should be a great sense of urgency.

The time has come for company leaders to move beyond merely taking survival actions.  They must set their companies in motion to compete in the new environment.  Now more than ever, leadership requires intuition, the astute, realistic understanding of what business trends were developing prior to the lock-down, and a great deal of flexibility.

A company’s initial course may need radical altering along the way, as most behaviors and future practices of customers, employees, and even governments are unpredictable.  By deliberately moving forward, a company will have a better opportunity to reposition itself, potentially influence, and even lead in the coming months and beyond. As well as a challenge, the pandemic may actually represent one of the best opportunities that a company has to survive and thrive.

 

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