20 Jan Emerging from COVID-19, it is even more important that businesses have unequivocal priorities – What does this mean?
Unequivocal (adjective): total, or expressed in a clear and certain way.
Priority (noun): something that is very important and must be dealt with before other things
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas.”
– Steve Jobs, Apple
In the COVID-19 world, as businesses face challenges across all aspects of their operations, how do they determine which initiatives they should pursue and which ones to defer or drop? In the past, it was all too easy to continue with a broad portfolio of long-term programmes in the expectation that they will over time deliver the desired outcomes and achieve business plan targets.
Today things are very different. As businesses find themselves financially challenged, [disruptors; changing customer expectations; resources; plus Covid] they need to focus on the few things that will really make the biggest difference and make it soonest. Unequivocal priorities on which steps to take, investments to make, resources to commit and in which areas of their business are critical right now.
The Executive team must be ruthless in setting their priorities now as this will determine how they emerge from this crisis. Beyond the immediate challenges of operating costs, cashflow and Covid-safe operations, Boards need to establish roadmaps that deliver value faster and can pivot in response to rapidly changing circumstances for the foreseeable future.
A key set of questions the Executive need to address so they can set unequivocal priorities are:
- Does their proposition continue to meet the needs and expectations of customers or do they need to change it?
- Are they able to deliver their proposition efficiently now – if not, what else needs to change?
- What are their current technology capabilities and do these provide the agility to deliver against rapidly changing needs?
- What are their ways of working and do they enable or hinder their ability to support making vital changes at pace?
- Do they still have the right skills and capabilities in their people or do they need to be supplemented with external expertise or re-skilling internally?
- What have they learned so far through COVID-19 and where are the opportunities to improve or extend these learnings?
The Executive Team needs to focus as one on initiatives that will really make a big difference: a marginal improvement will not be sufficient. They must identify the game changers and be brave in backing these whilst stopping other activities that will divert talent and progress. This does not mean mobilising a few large projects that will deliver in some distant future. The focus must be on those that can make a real difference and can be delivered at pace.
By making the right choices and leveraging existing, readily available digital technologies, they can deliver significant improvements rapidly and iteratively. Committing collectively to these few unequivocal priorities which unlock value quickly will determine who emerges better from this crisis and will thrive in future.