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Business Strategy in Uncertain Times

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By Professor Lawrence Bellamy, Academic Dean of the Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism.

Many business organisations trying to steer a clear path with current world affairs impacting will feel ‘stressed’ in this environment. It is unprecedented in modern times to be hit by so many seismic events;  Brexit, Covid-19, the Ukraine War and resulting; inflation, energy concerns, supply and market issues, labour shortages, currency fluctuations and legislation changes to name but a few.

The current operating environment is highly turbulent and depending upon the sector spans from challenging to downright cataclysmic. This results in winners and losers in the business world, with all the societal and personal issues which come with that. 

Many sectors are experiencing a high rate of change or ‘dynamism’, with a compound impacting factor of significant uncertainty. This makes forecasting highly problematic and moves organisations away from a tightly planned approach, which favours a slower-moving environment with lower uncertainty towards a need for risk mitigation and responsiveness.

"The current operating environment is highly turbulent and depending upon the sector spans from challenging to downright cataclysmic."

Risk mitigation ability comes from being able to read the significant environmental impact factors, noting the risks and planning contingency approaches in the event of those risks occurring. Responsiveness comes from the capacity to deploy those plans and associated changes to supply chain configuration, resourcing and operational processes at speed.

Developing foresight capability is a significant barrier for many organisations, where experience may have limited benefit in informing the future (tomorrow does not look like today and even less like yesterday, probably). Therefore, risks are not identified and the resulting contingency plans do not cover possible occurrences.

Scenario planning approaches are a powerful thinking tool to develop insight and identify areas of uncertainty, where further learning is required to navigate the signs of change, in whichever direction.

Overall, however, there is a need to maintain clear sight of long-term direction, accepting that whilst the destination of the organisation, captured by the vision is set, the route to achieve this remains subject to necessary deviation, to overcome the obstacles encountered on the treacherous path.

Published: 21 March 2022