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Timing a Change in Business Strategy During a Crisis

  • Updating a business strategy can be a necessary step in response to a crisis
  • Assess the situation before deciding when and how you’ll change the way your company does business
  • Change may not be necessary if your business strategy is working well and a crisis situation is not expected to persist

Article summary by Dirk Langeveld

A crisis, whether it be a broad challenge like the COVID-19 pandemic or a more centralized issue such as shrinking market demand for a company’s products, can be a galvanizing moment for a business. By updating its strategy, a business can endure the current challenge and potentially set itself up for long-term success.

However, you’ll need to consider whether a change in business strategy is the best option, and when it makes sense to put it in place. Mark Sussier, founder of Advanced Competitive Strategies and an expert on competitive strategy and business war gaming, recently wrote in the Harvard Business Journal that a knee-jerk response to a crisis is unlikely to be the best option, especially if your current business model is sound.

Modest changes, or simply staying the course, may get you through a short-term crisis. A change in strategy is more applicable if you expect that market shifts will last longer or if your industry is undergoing structural changes that will make your current strategy less profitable.

There are many steps businesses can take to update their strategies. These include taking a critical look at your current plan and cash flow, focusing on short-term goals to improve the business’s performance, and potentially shaking up your leadership team or workforce. You can also update your marketing efforts and conduct market research to look for new opportunities.

Businesses often wait until a crisis to scrutinize their strategy, and the more dire situation can help focus the efforts of the company and its employees while also promoting serious consideration of the business’s long-term success prospects. Of course, you don’t have to wait until this point to update your strategy. Periodically taking a look at how well it’s working can help you decide whether an update is necessary.

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