Why is it that some brands can reinvent themselves in the right ways at the right times and maintain long-standing competitive relevance while others cannot? How is it that some brands seemingly know what is around the corner and had already planned for unexpected market shifts? What pipeline of information do they access and where can we sign up?
Regarding those sometimes-frustrating questions, there is good news and great news. The good news is those brands are not tapping into some futuristic device giving them an edge on the competition; they are living the same here-and-now as the rest of us. The great news is that any brand of any size in any industry can achieve the same ahead-of-the-curve thinking that is giving top brands that competitive edge.
You have likely heard “agile decision making” mentioned in discussions about business development or brand strategies, so do not let this slip into the category of buzzwords that lose meaning the more they are used. Fully understanding and applying the concepts within “agile decision making” is how those top brands seem to reinvent themselves in the right ways at the right times. Maintaining long-standing competitive relevance is not about predicting the future, it is about consistently choosing the right path and quickly adjusting when the path chosen starts veering in the wrong direction.
Over the past 35 years, we have not only empowered our partner brands to leverage agile decision making in pursuit of competitive relevance, but we have also applied these same concepts to our own business as market conditions shift and consumer demands evolve.
Here are a few key elements of agile decision making that every brand should be considering right now:
Start with the end and work backwards.
Imagine yourself getting in your car for a road trip. Chances are you have already decided where you are headed, and you have mapped the quickest route to your destination. If efficient use of time and resources are important, then it would not make sense to hit the gas and start making turns without an idea of where you are going. You might be moving in the wrong direction, unnecessarily wasting time, and burning resources. It is a similar scenario when making plans and acting within your business.
If you do not have a clear vision and definition of success, then there is no framework for determining which path is the best to take. Before jumping into a new project or launching a new initiative, take the time to establish quantifiable goals and objectives. Ensure your team collectively understands and agrees upon the course of action before taking those first steps. By starting with the end in mind, you can work backwards to identify the series of actions and outcomes needed to arrive at the intended destination.
Have a plan but maintain flexibility.
Revisiting the road trip analogy, we all know sometimes conditions change while en route. An accident causes a traffic jam or construction has a road closed, at which point decisions need to be made. Do you stay the course and sit in traffic or adjust and find a quicker, smoother route?
Since you know the ultimate destination, you can find a new path around the obstacle and continue along your way. It is a deviation from the original plan, but it is done in the best interest of reaching the goal. This once again highlights the importance of having a clearly defined end point; adjustments can be made along the way guided by a framework of goals and objectives. Alternatively, changing directions without a destination can render useless any progress made up to that point.
Look for new opportunities along the way.
While on a road trip there can be happy surprises. A hidden gem café here or scenic view there. Veering off course can become an impromptu value-add if there is a defined reason or purpose.
This concept is aligned with maintaining flexibility, but it is proactive rather than reactive. Where flexibility is how we address unforeseen obstacles, a willingness to change course in pursuit of new opportunities is a way to add unforeseen value. Whether it is launching a complementary project to gather customer feedback or allocating resources to assess performance in a particular area, be willing to pursue new opportunities when they arise and adjust the big-picture plan accordingly. Sometimes staying the original course just for the sake of sticking to the plan can do more harm than good.
Let data-driven insights be your guide.
Especially when charting unfamiliar territory, it is helpful to have a guide lead the way. Road trippers often look to Google Maps or Waze for driving directions. Why? Because not only are these options more reliable than our gut instincts, but they also simplify the process and make life easier.
The implication here is not to remove all thought and logic by placing everything in the hands of data and statistics. Rather, leverage information as the basis and foundation for ongoing decision making. Carefully look at customer feedback, trends, and behaviors to identify new opportunities. Track and assess shifting market conditions to identify potential obstacles and pitfalls. The term “data” refers to information that exists within and beyond quantifiable metrics. So, letting data-driven insights become your guide will ensure decisions are made based on reliable, accurate, and up-to-date information.
These are just a few key elements of strategic agility and we have spent the past 35 years refining our approach in these areas. For more information or to discuss further how your brand can strengthen its strategic agility, give us a shout and let’s get started!