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Navigating Choppy Waters

Optimize Blog - August 4, 2011 - 1 comment

Here at Zeitgeist we’re big fans of the ‘great outdoors’ and particularly appreciate the beautiful and rugged scenery in Canada.
One of the best things about living in Canada is the opportunity to participate in a wide array of activities in stunning surroundings. One ‘activity of choice’ for many is kayaking.  Kayaking is a wonderful sport which can be as demanding or as gentle as the participant requires and, provided that basic physical requirements are met, all that is really necessary is the ability to both paddle and keep an eye out for other boats and obstacles.
However, for some, this seemingly straightforward combination of physical and visual skills can actually be quite the challenge.  During a recent floating expedition this became particularly evident when, having completely failed to notice the waves created by a large boat just ahead of the group of paddlers, a member of the Zeitgeist team paid the inevitable consequence – much to the amusement of the rest of the group.
This (soggy) occurrence reminded us of a recent conversation with a prospective client about the importance of keeping an eye on the wider environment, no matter how challenging things are closer at hand. His company had recently been focusing all their attention on addressing a range of internal issues, following the acquisition and integration of a competitor. As a result they had been paying scant attention to the vagaries of their market.
Vancouver Kayaking

The (perhaps) inevitable result was the loss of one of their largest accounts to a competitor who had introduced an innovative payment cycle for those global clients who would commit to longer term contracts in return for budget certainty, while exchange rate markets remained volatile. The prospective client’s ‘growth by acquisition’ strategy remains valid but they had temporarily overlooked the importance of ‘looking out of the windows’ of their business for the waves created by events that are outside of their control.
As the US faces the very real prospect of a double-dip recession, the money markets slump once more amid US uncertainty and Eurozone debt fears and the majority of Western economies race to devalue their currencies, what can you do to stay afloat in these choppy waters? Here are our top tips:
– Regardless of whatever internal challenges are demanding attention, make it a priority to ‘look outside of the company windows’ for those unexpected waves.
– Undertake regular environmental scans and answer the following questions:

o What are the top 5 Macro (Global) and Micro (Industry) drivers that are affecting us right now?
o What were the Top 5 Macro and Micro drivers 5 and 10 years ago?
o What do you think the Top 5 will be in 5 years?  Think about trends, customer expectations, technology, geo-demographics and political/legislative changes.
o What is most likely to change (be specific!)
o What is unlikely to change / what will be stable

– ‘Stress Test’ your existing strategy: Map it against the above environmental factors and look for gaps, risks and opportunities that you have previously overlooked.
– Prioritize all activity and monitor your progress towards your goals.
– Be flexible and adjust your strategy, filling in gaps and refining it to mitigate risks and exploit new opportunities as they arise.
The future can never be certain and change is inevitable.  In order to stay afloat, businesses need to have a robust strategy planning process which delivers a strategy that is reflective of the aims and drivers of the organization and the current internal and external situation.  At the same time it must be flexible enough to adapt as the future unfolds…

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  1. […] recent blog ‘Navigating Choppy Waters’ spoke about the increasing challenge of staying competitive in increasingly uncertain and rapidly […]

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