To Hit the COVID Curve Ball, Shorten Your Strategy-Execution Cycle

November 15, 2021
November 15, 2021 Jamie Notter

It feels like the rug was pulled out from under us in 2020—that our strategic plan suddenly became meaningless and we all had to make up strategy on the fly. And now, more than a year later, it feels like that is still happening.

From a strategy process point of view, however, having to stop, reevaluate, and create a new strategy is not anything new. You’ve been doing it for decades. Granted, in most years you don’t have to adapt this much, and this quickly, but your process should always be ready for that.

Of course, it wasn’t, which is why we’re so burned out. But the truth is, the stress and burnout we’re all feeling right now is not because the world threw us a curve ball—it’s because we evolved our strategy and execution processes over time into ones that pretended the fast ball was the only pitch in the universe.

Now is the time to fix that, because you and I know that we are not FULLY going back to “normal” any time soon. The basics of a strategy-execution process are simple:

  • Observe and analyze your world
  • Decide on a series of strategic moves that you believe will make you successful in that world.
  • As you execute your moves, you will continuously evaluate the effectiveness of those moves and continue to observe and analyze, looking for changes in your world.
  • That leads to revised or new strategic moves, and the cycle begins again.
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In a world of only fastballs, your core strategic moves are determined every three years, with one-year adjustments. If you make adjustments on an annual basis, you’ll still have the opportunity to hit home runs.

In today’s world, you will consistently strike out with that approach. So those core elements of a strategy process listed above don’t change, you ARE now shortening the cycle from 1-3 years down to 3-12 months. You still understand your long-term goals and vision, but you should now be elevating the importance of strategic moves that are made in 3-12 month windows. That’s the only way to hit the curve balls.

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You need a process that lets you “observe and analyze your world” in the middle of a quarter. You need metrics and KPIs that tell you when you’re off track so you can adjust before you annual budget variances are calculated. And you need a transparency architecture in place internally so the right people can see the right things before it becomes too late to change.

Ultimately, this is why your strategy process is NOT separate from execution or culture. They must all be working together if you want true strategic agility. In our coaching program, we help leadership teams set up and run a system that does just that.


Photo by Tim Gouw

Jamie Notter

Jamie is an author and growth strategist at PROPEL, where he helps leaders integrate culture, strategy, and execution to achieve breakthrough performance and impact. He brings twenty-five years of experience to his work designing culture-driven businesses, and has specialized along the way in areas like conflict resolution and generations. Jamie is also the co-author of three books—Humanize, When Millennials Take Over, and The Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement—and holds a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.
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