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CXO insights: Our best advice to succeed with strategy in uncertain times

Have you wondered how to set the direction for your team when the future is as uncertain as this year?

This week, we at Whyser are inspired by two leaders who got through the pandemic with a strong performance and new insights into implementing strategy. They were kind enough to share their advice on how to succeed with your strategy during turbulent times.

The first insights are from Niclas Wate, CEO of ROI Rekrytering, a recruitment tech company that improves the recruitment experience with its digital platform. The recruitment industry was hit quite hard during the pandemic and there was a lot of insecurity about the future. For Niclas and his team, the successful recovery has consisted of trying new markets and listening even more to customers regardless if they are ready for collaboration or not. To do this, involving the employees was key:

“We have put even more emphasis on involving all employees in following-up, talking about our challenges, and understanding what we need to do in order to continue our growth. Transparency brings security and commitment.”

Involvement is key to a sustainable strategy

According to Niclas, the key to a sustainable strategy is involvement. Gathering the insights of many people into the strategy makes it more understandable, sense-making and accurate.

“To be effective, ideas and thoughts cannot be isolated to a management team or board room. Good ideas are in most cases coming from customers or employees working close to them.
Any room where strategy is developed therefore needs to be open and transparent to pick up what will bring prosperity tomorrow.”

Adapting to a new reality

Next to share his thoughts is Tom Andersson, Country Manager at Netlight Denmark, an international IT consultancy company that helps leaders of the digital industry to be successful. He also had to adapt his way of working to the new reality. At the Copenhagen office, they maintained the overall strategy, but adapted their targets and started doing shorter iterations and feedback loops.

“Within the sales and recruitment teams, we follow up on the strategy almost weekly, as it is the guiding star for the planning and operational work.
We also discuss and challenge the strategy on a higher level continuously in smaller groups. Then we have a larger forum every quarter with office-wide strategy planning workshops. We also adjust and sync between the offices.“

For Tom, just like Niklas, involvement is the key to making a strategy that people actually care about.

”To me, ownership is key, and that has to be in place from very early on. The strategy needs to be something everyone feels not only acquainted with but proud of and aligned with. What it takes for this is to have a culture where involvement, knowledge sharing, and leaning in are seen as positive traits.

Distributed ownership – real, entrepreneurial ownership – of topics should be promoted and enabled. I think the experience of this year has probably made it clear that strategy isn’t something static, it is alive and needs to be challenged and iterated upon continuously.
It takes robustness from leaders to break out from the notion that strategy can’t change, but rather that it can change and adapt to reality without everything breaking.”

What will this require from leaders?

Tom: “In my mind, true leadership is about being an attentive, active role-model who enables others to grow. And that this is disconnected from role descriptions, seniority, and pay grade.
Leaders should focus on enabling those closest to a given problem to feel empowered to seek perspectives and advice.
It takes local decisions to solve local problems. I think that will likely lead to more correct decisions in the long run.
We have also seen that a collaborative leadership style enables everyone to be leaders and followers from the start, and especially within the tech sector, where problems are complex rather than complicated, this is crucial" says Tom.

How can a company get the needed culture?

“Changing the culture of a company to make this possible is difficult and takes time.”, Tom adds, “Making sure that the most visible leaders in that culture act the part will make a difference in both the short and long term.”

What can you do next?

We collected Niklas’ and Tom’s best advice for setting direction in uncertain times:

  1. Be upfront and transparent with your team - they will feel more secure by being involved and the best ideas are likely to come from your employees.

  2. Review and update your strategy and tactics in short iterations. Start seeing your strategy as something iterative that adapts often rather than a big, static beast.

  3. Take a close look at your company culture. Are there any behaviours that are unofficially promoted that aren’t in line with your company values? Are your leader’s role models for the culture? If not, then this is your next important task.

Whyser is a platform for working actively with your company strategy, we aim the make strategies agile and actionable to create more collaboration and ways to contribute.

Read more: Company values - An important asset or just another buzzword?

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