When you’re weary, feeling small, when tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all. I’m on your side, when times get rough and friends just can’t be found. Like ‘bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down.
The all-time classic song from Simon and Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, is likely to feel like a corporate ‘achilles heel’ snapping. Business consortia, owners and teams face unlimited challenges in the path of COVID-19 destruction: diminished demands for previously sought-after products, a lack of essential resources due to a challenged supply chain, a lack of market confidence in the future, essential restructuring and downsizing, restricted social contact to name but a few.
As a consequence, some businesses are simply shutting doors, all but given up hope. Then there’s a rare few which are flying high on the unintentional yet rather fortuitous business proposition COVID afforded to them; take for example those who refit hospitals back into an original hotel state, those who provide elearning infrastructures or those who create retail plastic shields. The bulk of business however is willing to make change, yet are perplexed as to where to start for adaptation in order to survive.
To ‘pivot’ is to twist, turn or even toss in a confined space to result in differing outcomes. Pivoting works with what exists in order to manipulate and maximize. COVID-19 has given business little room to squirm yet much opportunity to pivot. When doing so, the following are key to actions and decisions.
- COVID-19 has taken business to the edge, the exact space we all need to be, a space the future has been demanding of us for some time yet many feared to go. Picture yourself in a precarious situation, clinging to a cliff face that towers over a deep canyon; it’s here where only two choices exist: do or die. And once you’ve chosen ‘do, any and all action will be powered by urgency, focus and precision. COVID-19 has dragged us all from the plateau of business comfort, that dangerous place with the luxury of time, multiple attempts and unlimited resources. 2020 is no longer a dress rehearsal.
- This space is a great place to ensure you separate the business issue from the cause of that issue; one is reality and the other generated or revealed the reality. Are you focusing on the issue of portfolio relevancy or the market’s restricted movement, the issue of antiquated systems or the downturn in business, the issue of market opportunity or lack of consumer confidence? This does not have to be a long, drawn-out process yet clarity is vital to allow the result of your plan to serve your pivot point. If an arrow shot from a bow knocks down the haystack, is it the fault of the arrow, or the inefficiency of the haystack’s design? What matters today, right here right now?
- What do the people who interact with your business need? What’s hidden deep within the capability of your business that might address that? What do you have that can be repurposed, repackaged and introduced to attract attention? What consequences will that attract? Ensure your pivot works with what exists, and the externaI environment is one not to be forgotten or marginalized. If your pivot does not increase demand, you likely repurposed out of alignment with the environment. If there’s no change of behavior within the organization, it’s likely you weren’t surrendering to the new norm. Both simply equate to footsteps on that cliff face creating loose rubble under your feet, a sobering thought indeed.
- Isolated, all-encompassing expertise was always an illusion in business. Partnerships are vital to enhance your surrounding environment with missing resources or capability. Yet, there’s no room for misaligned or unbalanced reactive partnerships; those will neither sustain nor serve. True business partnerships are so in sync they almost defy the reality of difference while transcending all barriers. The commitment to shared beliefs and goals is so strong that ‘we’ overrides the focus of ‘me’. The more that’s known about partners, the more relationships and business results can prosper. Yet is there time for that now?
Challenge is the crucible of true business leaders. Just as Hans Akerblom, creator of Healon®, the substance that is used even today in cataract surgery, hit his challenge many years ago when the one vital element for a global supply had only one source, that being the one last centimeter of a chicken quill which separates the chicken body’s flesh from the bulk of chicken feathers. Urgency, focus and precision carried Hans to success, a feat which millions of people around the world celebrate even til today.
Crises such as COVID-19 have us all coming face to face with ourselves. We will never be immune to crises in business, and neither should we approach them with an air of invincibility. Rather, as Debbie Nicol, managing director of ‘business en motion’ demonstrates, when a structured thinking and development process is applied to an evolving set of non-negotiables for today’s changing world, struggling business will create a customized option for a pivoted business future. No longer shall the rough waters be troubled but rather rippled from essential adaptation.