Blockbuster's demise and its one remaining store show the need to scenario plan and adapt ©Getty Images
Blockbuster's demise and its one remaining store show the need to scenario plan and adapt ©Getty Images

How to reset your business strategy

Companies have been stuck in reactive mode for months, frantically changing direction in order to survive, but often not evolving quickly enough to thrive. We look at how proactive resilience planning can get your business back on track so you can focus on all-important growth

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, as they say. But who could have guessed what ‘worst’ would look like 12 months ago? Successful preparation requires continually evolving plans that cover a range of scenarios. Risk, business continuity and crisis management professionals have been shouting about this for some time, often failing to be heard. Well, the board is listening now, and procurement and supply has a role to play beyond supply chain mapping and due diligence.

Plan to keep pivoting

It’s not only about planning for recovery when disaster strikes. Rachael Elliott, head of thought leadership at the Business Continuity Institute (BCI), says organisations should focus on the language and essence of resilience. In other words, aim to prevent something adverse from happening as well as being able to quickly adapt, should the unavoidable occur.

Anne Marie Kilkenny and Dawn Dent, partners at integrated business planning and supply chain management company Oliver Wight, say it’s important to think beyond the basics, that scenario plans should also consider where a business wants to go and the possible ramifications of each development idea.

“Covid and Brexit have led to an unprecedented level of uncertainty,” says Kilkenny. “People are up to their armpits in alligators, but they have to carve out time to do this end-to-end thinking. What’s going to drive this planning is the strategic assumptions of the business and how things might change. We’ve heard about agility and adaptability for a decade, but people really mean it now. They have to be prepared to pivot on a regular basis.”

Put your best faces forward

The impact of Covid-19 has fundamentally changed the way businesses operate and some are unlikely to revert. So ideas that are central to the future direction of a business – be it a swing to a more online model in retail, or the accelerated use of certain technology – require exploring for their risk and resilience potential.

For instance, says Kilkenny, pre-Covid, procurement was occupied with, among other things, consumer pressure to remove single-use plastics and how suppliers along their chains are treated. While those issues won’t go away, she says, fresh challenges may divert resource and attention.

“It’s about understanding the new mindset of the business – what’s now important to customers, suppliers and investors. Deciding what trade-offs there are to make will require trust and transparency through the end-to-end supply chain.”

Dent recommends businesses identify some smart individuals below senior leadership level to research and analyse the most relevant scenarios and their potential impact. “Talk early and often to employees, as well as the supply chain and investors, and involve your best people,” she advises. Don’t expect them to get everything right, but give them the freedom and confidence to explore ideas.

Kilkenny: “We’re in uncharted territory. You may spend weeks doing something and then have to change things. It requires tolerance to deal with uncertainty and get really good at presenting trade-offs to the business for each scenario.”

It’s good to talk

Communication is often touted as a problem solver – but that’s because it works. Procurement is in an ideal position to see what’s happening in the marketplace and prepare suppliers for where their organisation could be headed. This will help them discover vital information about the advantages and drawbacks of various plans, as well as build the supply base they need for the future.

According to Elliott, best-in-class companies have readjusted their critical suppliers and kept in regular contact with them. More frequent dialogue has led to greater levels of understanding, trust and collaboration which many plan to maintain post-pandemic. It has enabled them to assist each other and led to early warning systems should a supplier be running into trouble.

Some businesses have collaborated with competitors to overcome a common challenge, and she says everyone should be investing in internal collaboration, breaking down departmental silos, employing strong communication skills and forming good relationships across the business. 

Top three take aways

  1. Produce briefing documents on scenarios of just two to three pages long
  2. Ensure the board is informed about key risks and plans
  3. Get an advocate on the board to keep you informed of company changes
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