We can’t ignore what’s happened over the last year and the impact it has on our businesses (for better or for worse). And yet much of what we’ve faced has been waiting on the horizon for a while – the pandemic simply acted as a catalyst for change. Research from McKinsey shows that executives have accelerated the digitisation of their customers and supply-chain interactions and their internal operations by 3-4 years.
Today, change underpins everything
When the high street was forced to close its doors, those who had embraced digital thrived – fashion retailer Boohoo saw a 40% surge in sales and acquired brands like Coast, Warehouse and Debenhams. While those who lagged behind without an eCommerce function struggled – Primark experienced a £1bn hit to its revenue.
And that’s not all. Consider how Gen Z is turning consumer expectations on their head. Once considered an afterthought of something a business should do, reducing environmental impact is now a business imperative. The World Economic Forum goes as far as to call it the “universal purpose of a company in the fourth industrial revolution”.
And then there’s the way Gen Z communicates. In the last year, TikTok saw its UK user base increase 75%. Providing help and support through a channel like TikTok is perhaps something you’d never even considered before. But fail to adapt and you risk falling foul of your customers’ expectations.
So how do you plan a strategy for a world that’s driven by change?
In the digital revolution, adaptability is key
If you follow a traditional, linear business plan where you’re focusing on a goal that’s 3-5-years out, by the time you hit those goals (assuming you do hit those goals) the world will have moved on. In fact, the reality is, if you’re working to the original baseline, your business will actually have moved backwards since everything moves on with time.
Many executives claim that the pandemic forced them to move up to 25-times faster than they thought possible. Today, your business needs to embrace change as a constant, which means your focus needs to be on how to embed adaptability into your operating model. If you can’t adapt, you’re going to struggle to survive and thrive.
How to embed adaptability in the business:
Priority 1: get a good understanding of your actual customer
As we explored at our webinar on the ‘secrets of the 16%’, organisations that maintain customer-centricity do so by understanding their actual (rather than perceived) customer, and the journey they take so they know where their investment matters the most.
Priority 2: build an infrastructure that enables the business to be agile
If you think about the brands who really stand out today, it’s the startups with their fresh perspectives, lack of legacy and courage to challenge the status quo. Like S&S, they are born in the digital age and leverage that capability to stay one step ahead of the competition.
Priority 3: adopt an adaptive operational model
Based on the emergent strategy, an adaptive operating model is more conducive to change because it seeks to solve challenges that prevent the organisation from being successful. It fosters true collaboration between functions, promotes iterative working, sprint delivery and is designed around 5 key principles:
- Human: design around people and what they care about.
- Optimisation: a shift from delivering projects to insight-driven continuous improvement.
- Frictionless integration: recognise that the business is dependent on an ecosystem.
- Organic: spin teams up/down based on the challenges they need to solve.
- Modular: identify independent, reusable capabilities that enable you to react faster.
The big payoff…
Despite what the headlines may have you believe, for many organisations the pandemic has been a source of great opportunity for those who had embedded adaptability within their DNA. For example, at S&S the pandemic allowed us to break down geographical borders, as we’ve welcomed new clients from as far afield as Saudi Arabia – something we never dreamed of before.
As a report from Harvard Business Review explains, “Those that thrive are quick to read and act on signals of change. They have worked out how to experiment rapidly, frequently, and economically…they have learned to unlock their greatest resources—the people who work for them.”
It starts with being ChangeReady
Before you embark on any new change initiative to embed adaptability into your business, you first need the certainty that you are ChangeReady – otherwise, you risk wasting significant time, resources, and effort on failed change.
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