How Strategy Development Changes in a Downturn

By HPA COO Justin Moser

As we’ve watched the difficult pandemic unfold globally, I’ve had conversations with current and previous clients over the past two weeks on near-term ramifications and been consistently pointing to forthcoming market dynamism in each firms’ respective marketplace. Most clients initially hoped for a “V-shaped recovery,” with a sharp resurgence post viral curve flattening.

Time will tell. Yet market dynamism is understandably the furthest thought from most minds currently, vs. an interest in the health and well-being of each firms’ teams, business continuity planning, revenue retention, the servicing of customers with a more remote team, and stress-tested liquidity with disrupted revenue, supply chains, and cash flow.

Concurrently, many firms are entering their medium / long-term business planning or ‘strategic planning’ seasons. And as I’ve shared in the past, business planning is very different from strategic planning. Some firms have chosen to forego longer-term plans in the immediate term, yet others require them for their supply chains, technology investments, or other medium-term capital schedules.

Even with differences between business planning and strategic planning understood, there are significant impacts on how clients approach these exercises in the current macro environment. In particular:

  • Strategy: Strategy is about Choice and Alignment around your top 3-5 business imperatives. Yet near-term more than ever, Strategy is about Choice-Driven Execution. One cannot afford long analyses in this time.


  • Duration: While a normal medium-duration effort might be focused on your top business imperatives over the next 3-5 years, the duration may shorten to the next 18 months.


  • Flexible and Creative Customer Solutioning: What might have looked like a less attractive demand opportunity 2 months ago, may now be an important bridge to a new solution. Consider your customers’ own struggles, and build nimble (even opportunistic) solutions to serve them over the next year. Bold customer solutions now will serve you well on the other side. Play offense while you play defense on customer revenue. 


  • Decisiveness at a Premium: Now more than ever, be decisive and hone in on the top few business imperatives. They may not be perfectly crafted, and must have some flexibility, but they are what will carry you through the crisis. A lack of top imperatives focus can now be fatal to the business. 


  • Bold Budget Reallocation: These imperatives will also guide where you do, and do not, spend money over the next year. Reducing spend in every area equivalently, including those areas that are essential to servicing your customers or winning in the marketplace, is not the end-goal. Sharper reallocation and reductions in non-imperatives areas is. 


  • Execute Exceptionally in Your Micro-Environment: Re-assign your best leadership and top talent (particularly, your best executional talent) against your top imperatives, with the associated PMO infrastructure and executive guiding coalition. This guiding coalition and leadership will participate in a war room of sorts during the next several months.

Please contact us at HighPoint to discuss any of the above, as you continue to navigate your top imperatives for the near-term.