The Role of Strategy in Times of Transition

Rock climber straddling between two sides of a divide.

The Role of Strategy in Times of Transition

By Margaret Wilson, Tandem Partners & Ann Quinn, Quinn Strategy Group

There are times in every organization’s lifecycle when everything hums along without a bump in the road. At moments like this, it can be tempting to take your eye off strategy and simply enjoy the ride. After all, success seems effortless.

If you’ve been lucky enough to have this experience, you also know these times are usually short lived, end unpredictably and, most likely, were the result of your discipline in setting strategy and goals in the first place.

So, what happens during times when internal or external environments are changeable, dynamic and uncertain?

Without a strategy, your organization is like a cork bobbing in the ocean – helpless against the next wave that might swallow it up. But with a strategy, and an aligned team that understands the goals, your organization is more resilient to those waves. Even the whoppers.

Strategy is Your Ballast and Keel

A clear strategy provides stability because it creates a single, forward-focused vision aligning your organization and your stakeholders. As such, your strategy also provides guidance as you respond to transition. The organization knows where it’s going and can therefore use its strategy to make sense of change and uncertainty.

In fact, having a clear strategy forces an organization to plan ahead, rather than staying stuck in the past or present. In this way, it enables you and your team to be proactive — as leadership implements strategy, the team looks forward to identify solutions.

A clear strategy also prevents organizations from not making decisions or making decisions erratically. It keeps people focused on finding what will work rather than dwelling on problems.

Strategy Opens Opportunity

Organizations that use strategy as an approach to navigating transitions are positioned to thrive, not merely survive. Here’s why:

When leaders are thinking strategically, it invites the team to be curious, and curiosity guards against fear, panic, confusion and resistance. Common reactions to transition and change.

Curiosity also pushes leaders to take calculated risks that move the organization forward in big steps. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but during times of transition it fosters growth and pushes the organization forward.

Strategy Grows People

Finally, a strategic mindset and focus helps develop strong leaders. It triggers questions such as who can lead, and what skills do we need to reach our goals?

Articulating and pursuing the strategy pushes leaders to recognize that people are at the heart of any change, and that the engagement and development of their team are critical for success.

The world is unpredictable and change is inevitable. Leaders who set clear strategy and goals and who are prepared to be pragmatic, adaptable, and recalibrate if needed, are the ones best equipped to guide organizations through even the most challenging times.