Strategy in uncertainty: Staying agile

Posted by:

Original photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Post 4 of the ‘Strategy in uncertainty’ series

You have your strategy, people are engaged, but it’s still too easy to slip into old patterns and carry on as before.  From our experience there are strategic approaches, ways of working and mindsets which can all help sustain commitment to an agile and transformational strategy. 

  1. Invest in the future now.  Consider McKinsey’s 3 horizon framework.1  Consciously invest in the second (3-5 yrs) and third (5+ yrs) horizons to prepare for the future.   Monitor your spending and don’t expect immediate results.  Remember you are setting up for the longer term. 
  1. Structure around goals not functions.  Multi-functional teams create cut-through on the things that matter to change.  Bring people together across functions to focus on the ‘Wildly Important’2 and free teams up for what really matters. 
  1. Impact, impact, impact.  We have said it before, but the relentless focus on impact is key.  Then focus on your role and added value in unlocking impact and excel at it.  Are you about providing funds, expertise or goods and services to programme participants?  That’s your route to impact. 
  1. Keep external.  Do rapid reviews of the external environment and talk to external stakeholders.  Know what’s fixed, changing rapidly, or is transformed.   
  1. Be responsive.  Focus on the needs, drivers and behaviours of your stakeholders.  Listen to them and be responsive.  Adapt to their changing needs. 
  1. Impact reviews.  Review progress against impact goals regularly.  Go beyond leadership to engage country and programme staff and partners. Understand and do more of what drives impact. 

The future may look uncertain, but for the bold it can offer big opportunities.  A focus on impact and transformational change has never been more important. A new approach to planning and strategy implementation is currently required.  Adopting new ways of working can help deliver on your strategic ambitions to change and sustain lives and environments in uncertain times. 

By Jane Thurlow 


1Enduring Ideas: The three horizons of growth | McKinsey

2 Discipline 1: Focus on the Wildly Important | FranklinCovey