Crisis can affect any business. From financial market changes to global pandemics (which aren’t mutually exclusive) to losing staff to new competitors — strategy is crucial.
In whatever situation your company may be in, there is always an opportunity to assess your strategic direction and look for improvements. If there is a lull in business because of a crisis, then there is no better time to begin a strategic direction assessment.
How do you analyse strategy?
The first step in assessing your strategic direction is looking at how you have done it in the past. Have you ever discussed it before as a company? And if so, who in the company has those conversations? Normally it would be the directors, members of the board, founders or in larger companies heads of departments. Has this changed because of a crisis?
It can also be done with the use of external help. For example you might hire a Part-time Strategy Director with a wealth of experience to come into the company and give your strategy a boost.
Once you’ve established who has evaluated company strategy in the past, ask how they did it? It can often be the case that strategy planning was only a brief conversation or even just in the CEOs head. This is not the best way to create a strategic direction, so you really need to identify what worked and what didn’t.
It is often the case that strategy discussion and strategy implementation are completely disconnected. They must be linked. Once the strategy process has taken place it’s crucial to not ‘put it in the draw’ – it must be integral to your implementation of the strategy. Strategic documents should be living, breathing documents and are adjusted accordingly as the company progresses.
SWOT has been around for a long time and there’s a good reason for it — it is a brilliant tool for strategy development. It is a quickfire way to start a group discussion about your strategy in the past and your future strategic direction.
At its core, SWOT is a brainstorming exercise so when writing down the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that could affect your company, it is important to get every idea down. Not only does this create an alive and active atmosphere with the brainstorming session but it’s often, with this freedom, the best way to get ideas out.
Once you have written down all the ideas then it is time to trim down your lists to the very best. These ideas are likely to be different from the results of your past SWOT analyses because of the crisis, which is great because that is how you will progress through the new circumstance.
With the new insights that you and other key members of the business have generated, you will have the basis to create your refreshed strategic plan.
Utilise Crisis Strategy Assessment
The Crisis Strategy Assessment is a tool developed specifically to manage a company’s strategic direction planning in the face of a drastic change in circumstances. Similarly to SWOT, it is a brilliant way of breaking down the obstacles your company faces into manageable sizes.
The assessment simply asks your company the crucial questions that need to be answered in the middle or wake of a crisis:
- What will change or has changed in the world?
- What will change or has changed in your industry?
- How will this affect or has affected your revenue streams?
- How will this change or has it changed your value proposition?
- How will this alter or has it altered your customer segments and relationships?
- How will this alter or has it altered distribution channels and partners?
- How are your resource needs going to change or have they already changed?
- How is your cost structure going to be affected or has been affected?
The crisis assessment strategy is not only useful during a crisis. It’s the perfect tool, in fact to use at any stage of the crisis: before a crisis to forecast how a business must prepare and ensure business continuity; in the midst of a crisis to help the business develop a new strategic direction at a time when it’s most crucial; or after it when assessing the effects of the crisis.
End with MOST
The MOST strategy technique transforms your strategic process from discussion to an actionable plan. As stated earlier, the strategy discussion and implementation must be interconnected and MOST ensures this.
MOST breaks down your strategy development into:
- Mission. What is your overarching aim for your company with consideration to the crisis? Keep in mind the business’ profit and turnover.
- Objectives. What steps and achievements are integrated in the journey towards your mission?
- Strategies. How might you achieve your objectives?
- Tactics. What specific actions can you, as a company, undertake to achieve your strategy plans?
This system is perfect to use after the SWOT and Crisis Strategy Assessment. The previous two techniques allow you to analyse the effects, or potential effects, of a crisis as well as your company’s strengths and weaknesses in dealing with them. MOST facilitates your strategic planning in how your company moves out of the crisis.
All three tools should be used together when dealing with a crisis that affects your company and can be downloaded for free from The Business Strategy Toolkit to create your strategy today.
John Courtney is Founder and Chief Executive of BoardroomAdvisors.co which provides part-time Executive Directors (Commercial/Operations/Managing Directors), Non-Executive Directors and paid Mentors to SMEs without either a recruitment fee or a long term contract.
John is a serial entrepreneur, having founded 7 different businesses over a 40-year period, including a digital marketing agency, corporate finance and management consultancy. He has trained and worked as a strategy consultant, raised funding through Angels, VCs and crowd funding, and exited businesses via MBO, MBI and trade sale. He has been ranked #30 in CityAM’s list of UK Entrepreneurs.