Skip to main content
Go back

As I started to think about the next useful strategy blog I did the mandatory internet trawl and found myself reading, and then discounting, much of the pre-COVID material… and that is the first of today’s 5 key messages.

Much (but not all) of what we ‘thought’ about Strategy ‘pre-COVID’ is arguably now redundant.

There is still a need to examine the external environment, choose relevant tools to undertake internal strategic reviews and it is as relevant as it was in 2014 when Strategy expert Martin Reeves said in his 2014 TED Talk; “Strategy needs a Strategy”.

But… it all feels a bit different now, which leads us to our second key message.

Every business, charity and public sector body are now, more than ever, strategizing for ‘the unknown’.

So, what are the implications of this?  We would suggest staying close to the following:

  • Your customers – what are their needs now? How are they different to before?
  • Your competitors – are they ahead of the curve? Have they spotted something you have yet to?
  • Other industries – what are they doing? What is coming over the horizion?
  • Your employees – what insights do they have from basically, being an employed human being during the last troubled year, that may lead to some value adding idea for surviving and thriving going forward?
  • The world at large – horizon scanning – being better connected and then working out which people / organisations to observe / have dialogue with and which to discount because time is precious.

Our third key message is:

Spotting ‘the trends’ and confidentially acting on them has never been more important. 

The Strategy Institute have written a useful blog called “Top Business Strategy Trends to Watch in 2021”.  We like these so much we have tabled them and captured our interpretation of what they mean.

Strategy trend as predicted by the Strategy Institute Our reflection
Trend 1: Merit to forward looking data


Given we are strategizing for the ‘unknown’, it’s time to back ‘change’ based on imperfect information.  The ‘Be Perfects’ out there won’t like this.
Trend 2:  Leave no one behind outlook Diversity and inclusion are on the agenda for good.  It’s time to be part of leading a fairer world.  Strategise for it.
Trend 3:  Decarbonizing economies


Various external factors are pushing companies to adopting a net zero carbon emissions goal. How will you achieve yours?
Trend 4:  Anywhere Operations


The world has proven that we can work basically anywhere.  Thinking about your office space and buildings going forward has to be part of your ‘nimble’ strategy.  Embracing the virtual world of work is also a reality that many will face. Digital will be the default. How are you placed for this?
Trend 5:  Location independent recruitment


An extension of the above – more flexible approaches to ‘job location’ will be created.
Trend 6 – Back to smaller cities


As much as some of the Londoners and New Yorkers might resist this, many will be delighted to build a life away from the traditional ‘centres’ as different places and regions become equally industrious, and work becomes more digital.  This can only have positive impacts on sharing ‘wealth’ more equally across regions and countries.
Trend 7 – AI to course correct remote working hitches


A growing use of AI to support the remote worker and connectivity with the employer will be seen.
Trend 8 – eBehavioural and security policies


New HR and security policies required!
Trend 9 – Paid for online services


Customers will be happy to pay a fee to get the quality and security on-line.


Trend 10 – Asset – lite platforms


The permeation of digital disruption is leading to the necessity for all businesses to consider what platforms they need to survive.   This is probably good news for those of you that really understand what this sentence means J, less so, for the rest of us.

Some of this will seem overwhelming, even to those of you who work for large corporations.  This leads me to our practical fourth key message:

Depending on your reference source, any fundamental ‘change’ in business can take anything between 2 to 7 years to successfully embed.  

Meanwhile, people are still people, requiring and buying their health care, groceries, energy, entertainment, transport, housing etc.   People are creatures of habit so convincing us to adopt all of the above in the next 12 months is highly unlikely, however, if they are robust ‘trends’ then we will start to see early adopters in all of them this year.  If you believe this, is you, then it might be useful to remember the well-researched principles of ‘Making Change Stick’ captured in the HBR.  The first two of these seem particularly important to me for us to think about during 2021.

Don’t forget to match strategy to culture & focus on a few critical shifts in behaviour.

“A strategy that is at odds with a company’s culture is doomed. Culture trumps strategy every time” (HBR).

As many of you will know, culture is largely; behaviour, process and symbols.  For us to embrace a new world, work differently, buy differently and live differently, that’s a whole lot of change to be part of.  As leaders in organisations, pay attention to the cultural change required and which key behaviours are going to deliver that for you. Strategise for it, and then get good at execution.

Here are some take-away questions for you to contemplate:

  • What is your ‘strategy’ for dealing with ‘strategy’ this year?
  • How has this changed as a result of the COVID pandemic?
  • How does your company need to win in your environment?
  • Where and how are you gathering your insights?
  • How are you resourcing for ‘strategising’ and ‘strategy execution’ in your organisation?
  • How will you know if you’ve done this well?

Thanks for reading, we hope it’s been of some use.


Karen Griffin

Karen is the founder of Space2BE and a results-focused, senior executive coach, coaching / OD supervisor, leadership facilitator, organisation development, human resource (HR), and talent management consultant. Clients value her ability to understand their strategic goals and to create and deliver effective solutions to meet their needs.