The first challenge of Covid for many organisations was survival and adapting to continue to deliver services and support staff. Having weathered that first shock leaders need to find a way to chart a future course that will maximise their ability to fulfil their mission.
There is much talk of a ‘new normal’. No one knows what that will look like – or indeed whether it will happen any time soon. The one thing we do know is that the future is much more unpredictable.
In such an environment it may seem counterintuitive to suggest that organisations now need strategy. In fact, that is exactly what is needed: a guiding framework that clarifies direction and priorities and enables decision making – one that will facilitate agility and adaptation as circumstances change.
The difference from before Covid is that now strategy must encompass uncertainty. It needs to be resilient in the face of all foreseeable circumstances. So it’s not ‘a plan’; it’s an understanding shared by trustees and senior executives, based on thinking through the futures the organisation might face, including the most extreme and scary.
So how do you do it?
- First ensure everyone shares the same clear understanding of the difference the organisation exists to make in the world (often expressed as purpose or mission). This sounds obvious, but in many organisations real shared clarity about this most fundamental building block is lacking and confusion can follow. Investment of a little time in creating that clarity will pay back enormously.
- Next carry out an analysis of your operating environment in the next period, including scenarios created by the most uncertain factors. In addition to the usual PEST analysis, identification and consideration of the most extreme scenarios that could arise is vital for establishing a robust strategy.
- Finally determine an overall approach that will be resilient under all those scenarios and will take you towards fulfilling your mission. This is most powerful if a clear medium-term objective can be set that will provide a basis for evaluating progress and success.
With those in place organisations and their leaders are equipped to implement activities and changes that will take them towards their destination and to adapt those activities in response to setbacks and opportunities as they arise – keeping that destination in mind at all times.