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Charting a full-potential COVID exit

Why incremental measures won’t be enough to emerge as a long-term outperformer from this crisis

If you are a business leader, the decisions you make today to position your organization for the post-pandemic era may be career-defining—determining how your business performs for the next decade or longer. Almost every CEO my colleagues and I have spoken with recently are focused right now on hitting the right trajectory in their COVID-Exit strategy, and while it’s not too late to make those plans, there is also no time to lose.

Like so much relating to COVID-19, “heading for the exit” is not straightforward. Achieving the right trajectory requires making tough choices. Amidst so much uncertainty and disruption, how far should you go to change your steady-ship approach and adopt faster and more agile models? How much, and how fast, does your organization need to pivot to reach an “optimized state” for the post-COVID-19 world?

Our past research on the “all in” approach to transformation illuminates what we have found to almost always be the best way forward: full-speed ahead. Our findings from past downturns also confirm that companies that take an all-in approach emerge stronger and sustain that competitive advantage for almost a decade afterward. Whether your organization’s transformation should be primarily about portfolio moves (related to resource allocation, M&A, and capital investments) or performance improvements (through differentiation and productivity programs) misses the point. To succeed, you need to pursue both.

As counterintuitive as this may seem, incrementalism is also especially risky right now, particularly for organizations trying to break out of what feels like a state of perpetual crisis. Management teams tend to shy away from big-bet decisions during times of uncertainty and, as a result, drift toward the familiar rather than going for big moves. In reality, this may be the best time to challenge assumptions about your business’s future and make changes that position it for strong growth in the next normal.

We recently published an article on holistic transformation that takes a deep look at how leading organizations are approaching this challenge in the current environment. It outlines three steps necessary to start the process:

  • attaining an unvarnished view of the full potential of the business across both portfolio and performance moves;
  • understanding the interdependencies and implications of timing for those moves;
  • structuring a program with thoughtful sequencing that maximizes value creation.

We then outline a model for working through the decisions you will have to make.

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