• Posted 15 May
  • 4 m read

How executives can lead the way in uncertain times – and plan for the unexpected

By David Poole

resilience
/rɪˈzɪlɪəns/
noun
1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

So, how’s the new decade going so far? Not as planned, I don’t imagine – but that is sort of the point. Without wanting to immediately mention a certain pandemic, one of the messages I want to hammer home in this article is that things rarely ever go according to plan – and a good business strategy is one that accounts for that inevitability. A famously wry phrase comes to mind: “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” 

In our recent webinar co-hosted with Everest Group, Corporate Resilience: Practical Approaches and New Management Mindsets, I introduce Emergence’s framework for building resilience in the face of seismic challenges. With no shortage of uncertainties lying in wait, building the resilience to adapt our ‘best-laid plans’ to new and difficult circumstances is shaping up to be the defining business asset of the 2020s.

Pandemic aside, Brexit is still up in the air, a potential recession is dawning, climate crises loom, and in the financial industry, regulatory shifts such as IR35 and the transition away from LIBOR threaten to wreak havoc on contracts and risk management. The high-wire act of leading and scaling a successful business over the coming decade means staying one step ahead, not only of the competition, but of the next major catastrophe too. 

Few could have predicted the coronavirus epidemic, despite Bill Gates having warned us all five years ago. Business leaders may therefore be forgiven this time around for being unprepared.

The same cannot be said, however, for a second wave of the pandemic. Or for the effects of climate crises on supply chains, or for shifts in outsourcing patterns, consumer demands and workforce requirements. These are all elements that should now be factoring into executives’ long-term visions. 

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