Are you feeling like me, wondering “what’s next” at the start of each business day? Trying to be agile and grow in an environment that feels ever more unpredictable? “We have entered a pronounced Era of Uncertainty”, claims colleague Tony Zambito, a leading authority on buyer insights. Today’s business leaders who want to grow their, market share, customer value, global footprint and competitive advantage need to have a strategy and plan for how to tackle and prepare for a world with more hard-to-predict events. Growing your business in the sea of uncertainty is the focus of this episode of What’s Your Edge?

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Uncertainty has always been an element of business. Business leaders recognize that they must navigate tidal waves. Tidal waves are created by the gravitational forces of the sun or moon. They cause changes in the level of water bodies and can be predicted far in advance and with a high degree of accuracy. When preparing for tidal waves, using past events and historical data enables meteorologists to make relatively accurate predictions about the future.

In rocky waters, it’s even more important for businesses to up their investment in six areas:

  1. voice of customer research
  2. frequent conversation with customer
  3. competitive, and other ecosystem, intelligence
  4. guidance from customer advisory boards
  5. data mined and analyzed from internal systems such as ERP, CRM, and other analytical tools to surface insights
  6. industry and market reports from analysis

These investments serve as primary inputs to anticipate the future. They are the principal ingredients for analytics to support what is known as statistical predictions. Business leaders combine this information with their experience and intuition to make smarter decisions and investments with greater confidence.

Head Out into Deeper Waters to Operate in Unpredictable Times

uncertainty, growth, grow, growing, business, market landscape, strategy, process, operational effectiveness, data, analytics, hard-to-predict, research, predictive analytics What happens when there isn’t enough historical quality data? Uncertainty increases. I imagine, you like every business we work with is trying to maneuver, better than your competitors, in this sea of uncertainty. Lack of predictability makes running a business hard.

It is even harder when there is one tsunami wave after another. Tsunamis are difficult to predict. They are triggered by large earthquakes that occur near or under the ocean, volcanic eruptions, and underwater or onshore landslides. Tsunamis move through the entire depth of the ocean, from the surface to the floor, causing rapid changes in water level and unpredictable dangerous currents. Such is the current business environment.

We’ve experienced a series of tsunami’s based on unexpected but nonetheless extremely disruptive events such as:

  • a global pandemic,
  • supply chain issues
  • people challenges, like team shortages, and immature skill levels
  • raging inflation and
  • a regional war that threatens to expand in scope

These tsunamis have created a rapidly changing business environment. They are altering the market landscape and contributing to the it unpredictability.

What do you do if you’re in a boat under the threat of a tsunami? Don’t head for a port or shore. Instead head out to deep water. At sea, with deep water under the keel, you are safe, because the added volume of water created by the tsunami is spread out within that depth.

“Boats can survive tsunamis only when they are distantly offshore, in deep waters, when it passes.”

5 Maneuvers to Achieve Growth in Times with Tsunami Waves of Uncertainty

Businesses need to heed this advice. Rather than running for port, if you want to grow and thrive, head out into deeper waters. The motto of the day, “always be prepared for rogue waves.” What encompasses preparation? Here are five maneuvers to help navigate the sea of uncertainty.uncertainty, growth, grow, growing, business, market landscape, strategy, process, operational effectiveness, data, analytics, hard-to-predict, research, predictive analytics

  • Strategy: Hunkering down only works in the short term. The long term requires sustainable growth. Consider implementing iterative decision-making sessions structured around three imperatives: discover, design, and execute. Use scenario analysis or outlook planning to consider all the potential options and create contingency plans for each. Step back and review your market landscape, especially your ecosystem map. It may have altered significantly. This will have ripple effects in several areas, such as your competitor, partner and other key relationships, the type of talent you hire in terms of domain expertise and experience, and your processes.
  • Value and Supply Chain: Speaking of value and supply chain. There has been a movement for companies to respond to the increase in supply-chain complexity with a plan for simplification. As a result, many organizations reduced their number of suppliers, partners, and staffing levels. That comes with risk. Check in with suppliers to understand the impact of uncertainty on their business. Should your suppliers face disruptions, such as loss of offshore talent or an agency that could not weather the storm, your organization may be left high and dry. Use your contingency plans to identify where to expand the potential list of approved suppliers to support all of your options. Keep in mind the need for quality data during times of uncertainty. Check to make sure your data supply chain is fully operational. It may be necessary to actively seek expert advice that can contribute to better decisions by filling gaps in existing management knowledge.
  • All hands-on deck: Crises may galvanize your organization in its initial phase. But once that adrenaline fades, continuing uncertainty becomes exhausting, taking a toll on your teams’ mental and physical health. “The stress of uncertainty, especially when prolonged, is among the most insidious stressors we experience as human beings,” says Aoife O’Donovan, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry at the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences. This stress ultimately impacts organizational effectiveness, from a decline in responsiveness to customers and suppliers to a deterioration in the overall quality of work. We learned a lot during the pandemic on the importance of meditating, exercising, sleeping well, and nurturing social connections to manage stress and anxiety. Leaders need to model the way. Allow for flexibility. Employ the sprint huddle process to communicate with your internal and external teams. uncertainty, growth, grow, growing, business, market landscape, strategy, process, operational effectiveness, data, analytics, hard-to-predict, research, predictive analytics
  • Run experiments: Tsunamis impact your customers as much as they impact you. The value of a regular cadence of conversations with customer and customer advisory boards in a hard-to-predict world is priceless. Being able to rapidly test, iterate and quickly bounce ideas off your customer advisory boards increases your ability to support constantly changing customer needs and market conditions.
  • Operational Excellence: In times of great uncertainty, keeping and growing the value of customers needs to be top of mind. This takes a customer-centric perspective, that is, putting your customers at the center of all decisions and how you run your business. This means your processes must support customer-centricity and agility. If you haven’t already done so, audit and map your processes to see where modifications might positively impact how you engage with customers. Define the high-level approach that will guide how you will operate when the environment is less predictable.

Knowing what to do is the easier part. Bringing best practices to your organization’s growth initiative, across all its functions, with many moving parts and processes, and planning and implementing the changes and making them stick is the hard part. We have helped many of our customers grow, even during stormy weather. Contact us so we can help you too.

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