Strategic Planning

Successfully Navigate Business Change using Focus

Times are difficult. The unknowns that impact work are higher-stress and more unpredictable than ever before. Strategic plans, vision-mission-values, and the way teams complete work are structures to rely on. Focus – this single word may seem insurmountable, because it means choosing a singular element to put all resources into. Many of us, somewhere deep down, might think this exceptional focal point means a higher possibility of missing something else important. The fear of missing out amplifies in a business context. Entering a new market, developing an existing market, creating a new product, and even responding to unexpected external situations like COVID-19 requires time. With a clear framework, both planed and unplanned refocusing can be responded to more quickly. Having a framework to use makes it possible for you to show up to the big moments.
In my conversation with Jeff Bermant, Founder & CEO of the Virtual World Computing, said, “This is a big moment. It’s not your only moment. You need to march on with whatever you’re doing. You need to be resilient and go about your business as best you can.” It’s the big moments we are practicing during our everyday work. The discipline you develop from focusing your attention on each day’s work is what you will fall back on when things quickly change.

This article will go into three areas: when to refocus, the purpose of refocusing, and navigating the way forward.

To be successful refocusing and keeping that focus on your current priorities requires intentionality and diligence. Especially when both what work that needs doing and the way you do that work done must shift to stay on course.

When is it time to refocus?

With the radical shifts, the answer is right now.

There are many different reasons to refocus, including:

  1. Reaching a new phase, and when what used to work doesn’t anymore.
  2. Misalignment of the business and strategic growth plans (strategic planning).
  3. Receiving unexpected outcomes with current communication processes.
  4. Market share reduction because competitors have changed.
  5. Your or the management team’s capacity has to expand for what’s next.

Add on to that what we are facing today:

  • Office and storefront closures.
  • Access to confidential and proprietary information outside of the office network.
  • Family stress, including kids at home during work time and aging parents – all requiring extra support.
  • Breakdowns or hiccups in the supply chain.
  • Changes to customer buying patterns.
Swift response is possible, and can happen without all the information. It must also be strategic. There are enough trends, provided you’re looking at them, to indicate impact from external threats. A dynamic SWOT provides a lens with which to understand what threats – and what opportunities – to consider pursuing by placing key resourcing. This living document is a tool for strategic planning and rapid change. What you know about your company, the market, the industry, and local and global economies influence growth initiatives. Without a basis to work from, it’s much harder to find the right priority for right now. When heightened emotion is present there is even more ambiguity about the way forward. Ideally, refocusing along the way is important – making small adjustments to keep moving forward on the chosen path. Companies that do this bounce back from rapid change much quicker. Their strategic plan, and strategic planning is underpinned with the important data points that will help them know when and what to respond to. Refocusing strategy and plancan happen when it’s needed. Even if you don’t have a dynamic SWOT, even if you don’t have all the skills or resources needed you still can respond well. It’s about openness to what’s actually happening. What exactly is the problem at hand.

How do we intentionally refocus?

Dr. Aditya Nagrath is Founder and CEO of Elephant Learning. He shared his approach to refocusing, “Our first step is not how do we get to the solution. Our first step is: are we using the right tools? Do we have the right tools? And, do we have the knowledge to use the tools to get to the right answer?”
Our first step is not how do we get to the solution. Our first step is: are we using the right tools? Do we have the right tools? And, do we have the knowledge to use the tools to get to the right answer? Your company’s economic engine, a Jim Collins concept,  is the single ratio with which to make growth decisions. Your vision and mission are the True North that guide how you execute and implement decisions. Consequently, you can use the ratio and True North a to create a gap analysis:

Where you want to be – Where you are =What must happen

Sometimes there are many factors to focus on at once. It’s hard to choose. This is when SWOT is most valuable because the tool can aid in prioritization based on the “state of things.” An unclear view of the state of things will cause avoidable setbacks. Strive to be realistic and willing to view things as they are without any filters.

Operate with clear intention.

To navigate through change, you decide what you want to focus on right now. This is the hardest part – there are so many tasks to keep business going the same way as always, so many new opportunities, and so many more threats. We know change happens. We know it can be rapid. We know we can be ready for it.  In addition to the three items already discussed (profit ratio, vision/mission/values, and SWOT), another way to operate is to have feedback loops internally and externally. This is data that might easily be overlooked, yet can make the tools you use to decide when and what to focus company resources on that much stronger.
It’s very important to talk to your customers and important to understand their pain points. But, it’s also very important to do what you feel is right. Product-market fit is something in constant flux due to technology and customer behavior. Tallis Salamatian, author and entrepreneur, is passionate about this fact and shared that, “It’s very important to talk to your customers and important to understand their pain points. But, it’s also very important to do what you feel is right.” When you know the pain points you can use the rest of the cultivated resources to shape initiatives. All of this put together provides what you can use to align current challenges to the business’ strategic planning.

Here are questions I’ve put together for you to be intentional about when refocusing:

  • Where are we poised to grow, where do we think growth and expansion can occur?
  • If you could change anything about your management team (including you), what would it be?
  • What is the one thing (that keeps you aligned with mission) that will create the most impact right now for your business?
  • What are the potential long-term consequences of my current path?
  • How do we navigate this change with the least amount of stress and lost revenue?
When knowing what you are moving toward, the path is something you can communicated to everyone in your company. You can be rigid and flexible when needed to stay on course. And you can move through change successfully.

As additional reading material, check out the following articles:

The Big League Secret To Business: Focus, Focus, Focus Three Ways to Think About Business Focus Hedgehog Concept in the Business Sectors For more tips on growth, leadership, and business strategic planning check out our previous articles. Still feel like you need a bit of help with some business direction on this topic? Then ACT to Plan by contacting me for a 30-Minute Unstuck Quick Consult. We’ll discuss your aims, where you are, and where you should be to move deliberately toward your team-building goals!

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