Realign strategy and capabilities in times of crisis

Organizational Strategy and Design Certification Series

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When looking to minimize the impact of an economic downturn, you need to realign your strategy and refocus on your core operations. An adaptable strategy will see you through turbulent times—and hopefully, make you stronger in spite of them.

Recalibrating your strategy will likely involve tough decisions. Senior leaders will be tasked with assessing the strength of the business—and, by extension, the underlying components, resources, and people under their purview. They’ll be faced with having to make decisions about which capabilities to retain and which to let go. 

In this course, you’ll learn how to shift your strategy to one that meets your current needs and how to assess team readiness through their behavioral fit.

Assemble a crisis response team.

Few companies see a financial crisis coming. Even if they do, chances are they won’t be able to avoid the impact in its entirety. In either case, you can’t lament the lack of foresight. Instead, take immediate action to ensure you’re ahead of future hardships. That means developing contingency plans and a robust governance to execute them.

 Be aware of your behavioral tendencies: All executives should be aware of their behavioral biases (e.g., risk tolerance or speed of action) and how they may amplify under pressure. Awareness of one’s self and of others will improve team collaboration, communication, and decision making. You should also consider what behaviors are needed: An effective and balanced crisis response team requires a variety of behaviors to handle the emerging issues your organization might face. 

Not sure how your crisis team will work? Use Team Work Styles to gain insight using behavioral data.

Be clear about governance and decision making: Although the crisis response team should have representation from across the organization, not everyone should have equal decision-making power. It’s imperative that everyone understands their role and decision-making authority. Using tools like Team Work Styles will help you review what responsibility each person holds and how to leverage their behavioral strengths to make them successful.

Adapt your business strategy.

Once a crisis hits, your task force must stay ahead of it. That means reforecasting revenue and reexamining costs. It also means reprioritizing the work to be done and reimagining how your teams will do this work. As you weigh the possible paths forward, revisit your existing business strategy. Start by identifying which strategic goals no longer make sense—then focus on a small number of critical priorities. Use the activity below to see how to ensure alignment on new business strategies.

Try it out! 

Your company could sit at the forefront of innovation and cutting-edge technology. But when a crisis hits, you may not have the luxury to continue these high-risk, high-reward ventures. Instead, you may decide to refocus on retention of existing customers and selling existing products. It may run counter to what you’ve done in the past. But until you stabilize yourself in an uncertain market, rely on what you know to better ensure company survival before you get back to doing what you do best.

Business strategy assessment

In a high-stakes, high-pressure scenario, time is of the essence. You need to make a leadership call regarding how to adapt the business strategy in light of the crisis. This decision likely won’t be unanimous so make sure you have a way to align your leaders. Tools like the PI Strategy Assessment™ can help provide transparency into beliefs and a platform for alignment to occur.

Assess the behavioral fit of your leadership team.

Adapting your business strategy is important, but execution is what determines success or failure. That begins with assessing senior team/strategy fit. Which executives are behaviorally suited to the task at hand? Who may struggle to perform while trying to execute the revised strategic priorities?

You may be tempted to assess the team based on gut intuition. But there’s a better way to assess fit. Behavioral data can be quite helpful in understanding what activities, roles, and responsibilities individuals are naturally suited for. Using tools like the PI Behavioral Assessment™, you can identify an individual’s behavioral drives and needs—an objective way to determine how natural of a fit they are for a given role.

Try it out! The activity to the right shows an example of assessing your team and solving for behavioral gaps.

Once you’ve identified leadership gaps, take swift action to address them. The size and scope of the leadership changes you make will vary on the size of your strategic effort. It could be as simple as pulling one executive off of a certain initiative and swapping them with another. Or, you may need to make more sweeping changes.

If it becomes clear you don’t have the right people on the current leadership team, look within. Even if you’ve implemented a hiring freeze, you can identify and promote high-performers who are up to the task. Ask yourself who you could lean on for the next six months to a year.

Stretching your leaders

In a crisis situation, you may not have the time to internally promote. So it becomes increasingly important for senior leaders to be self-aware. In doing so, they can learn to stretch their unique behavioral strengths to fit the current need. 

You can also try putting some norms and processes into place to help reinforce these new strategies. The bar to the right will show some example process based on your current strategy.

Modify your operating model.

Updating your business strategy doesn’t mean uprooting your operating model. But if your plan involves reductions in force or role changes, it does mean consolidating and altering existing teams. In doing that, you create new managers and working relationships. When assessing the need to tweak your structure you should think about which areas of the business will need more support and which people are behaviorally fit for these roles.

Most likely, the solution won’t be cut and dry. You may have to search elsewhere within your company to find the right people that match your strategy’s needs. Thankfully, people data can add structure to the process and help you uncover the “hidden” strengths of your workforce.

Much like your approach to revamping the leadership team, a data-driven process removes emotion and bias from the equation. This helps you make tough decisions quicker, with improved clarity and greater accuracy.

Test your knowledge.

Address the two most critical parts of a business during a downturn:

strategy and workforce in PI's Team Building Through Change