As we all absorb, respond and adjust to the unfolding situation with the rapid spread of Coronavirus, I was reminded of Peter Drucker’s quote: “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence - it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”

Clearly, the degree and nature of the turbulence currently facing individuals, families and organisations on health, home and business fronts in the UK and around the world, really is unprecedented in living memory.

And whilst the UK is in the run-up to the peak of the crisis over the next few weeks, things will settle down and return to near normal for most of us; sadly, not for all.

Back to Drucker’s quote… it assumes that time and consideration can be applied to decision making during the period of turbulence; however, this situation is currently far more than “turbulence”.

The immediate priority and focus are of course on higher order considerations and decisions as we all react to the current unfolding developments. Shortly, a new norm will become established and that may last for a period of time.

At that point Drucker’s quote, and in particular the part relating to “acting with yesterday’s logic” becomes highly relevant.

So, what is a ‘new logic’ likely to look like for organisations operating in a post-coronavirus environment, especially established SME’s, mid-sized organisations and divisions of corporates who will not have the resources and infrastructure of the larger corporates?

Here are some initial thoughts for consideration:

  • Market sensitivity – Increasing awareness of, and management of, effective monitoring to assess the external environment, trends and emergent risks.
  • Built-in responsiveness – Developing the capability and ability to react quickly and adjust course and direction, if at all possible, for example:
    • Commercial agility – the ability to quickly design a new minimum viable proposition or developed proposition ideas, with some level of customer and market validation.
    • Operating agility – the ability to deliver new propositions quickly to market, in a low-cost way that means new launches can be treated as experiments, rather than something you are betting the house on.
  • Dynamic collaboration – Actively seeking out and engaging with small, and potentially large, organisations for collaborative opportunities and initiatives.
  • Growth expectations – And, perhaps the time has gone when organisations can assume multi year-on-year performance and growth, albeit adjusting to seasonal or disruptive industry trends.

In his 2019 book ‘The Infinite Game’, Simon Sinek explores the difference between defined finite and open infinite games.

Infinite games are those played by known and unknown players, there are no exact rules and the length of play is infinite. There is no winning in infinite games, rather the objective is to continue playing the game.

Instead of protecting a company’s current business model, Sinek advises leaders to have ‘existential flexibility’. Specifically, no matter how much they’ve invested in going down a certain path, they need to cultivate an openness towards a better future.

He describes ‘existential flexibility’ as:
“Existential flexibility is the capacity to initiate an extreme disruption to the business model or strategic course in order to more effectively advance a Just Cause. It is an infinite-minded player’s appreciation for the unpredictable that allows them to make these kinds of changes. Where a finite-minded player fears things that are new or disruptive, the infinite-minded player revels in them.”

Further, Sinek adds:
“When a visionary leader makes an existential flex, to the outside world it appears that they can predict the future. They can’t. They do, however, operate with a clear vision of the future state that does not yet exist and they constantly scan for ideas, opportunities and technologies that can help them advance towards that vision”

And he summarises with the following thought:
“If you’re not willing to blow up your own company, the market will blow it up for you. Companies think about flexibility, but it’s often defensive, not offensive. Be willing to make a profound strategic shift, and take a short-term loss, to stay in game. If you have a just cause and trusting teams…people will understand why you’re doing it and agree.”

“Blowing up” one’s business or organisation is perhaps a bit extreme, but the willingness and openness to make profound strategic shifts is something that we should all reflect on.

Whenever things start to return to ‘normal’, we will all recognise that somethings will have changed, and more so that we thought or anticipated, and it will be interested to see how these impact customers, organisations and markets over time.

Strategy and strategic change are well debated topics and we are keen to hear your views on these points, as well as any stories from your own experiences. Please post your thoughts and tag ‘Whitecap Consulting’ (LinkedIn) or @Whitecapconsult (Twitter), or send me a note at [email protected] to share your thoughts.

Hopefully you’ve found this article useful. If you feel that your strategy development and strategy implementation process would benefit from independent review and challenge, please get in touch.

Established in 2012, Whitecap Consulting is a regional strategy consultancy headquartered in Leeds, with offices in Manchester, Milton Keynes, Birmingham, Bristol and Newcastle. We typically work with boards, executives and investors of predominantly mid-sized organisations with a turnover of c£10m-£300m, helping clients analyse, develop and implement growth strategies. Also, we work with clients across a range of sectors including Financial Services, Technology, FinTech, Outsourcing, Consumer and Retail, Property, Healthcare, Higher Education, Manufacturing and Professional Services, including Corporate Finance and PE.