pivot strategy

How to pivot quickly on business strategy

Reading time: about 7 min

Posted by: Lucid Content Team

Life is full of turning points—and some of the best stories include many of them. Turning points often jump-start necessary growth and change, even if they initially throw you for a loop. 

When it comes to business strategy, we can call this need to change a "pivot point," and it's not nearly as daunting as it may sound. Whether you're considering a simple name change, a full rebrand, or building out an entirely new revenue model, it's not uncommon for businesses to reach a pivoting point that requires a shift to ensure the company can stay successful. 

Let's dig into what businesses need to know to quickly and effectively pivot strategy. 

What does it mean to pivot business?

Market conditions are ever-changing, and sometimes even the best-laid plans require another look. The most successful businesses may see numerous strategic pivots over the lifespan of the business. A pivoting approach in business means that you reassess your business model's basic assumptions and tenets against new information—and adjust your plan accordingly. 

Determining when you need to pivot your strategy

Strategic pivots are sometimes the result of a faulty business model or strategy. However, it's important to remember that not all "failures" result in business failure. Instead, companies can use the shortcomings of previous decisions or plans to inform and improve a strategic pivot. 

Other times, a business needs to make a strategic shift due to circumstances outside of your control. Take the COVID-19 pandemic, for example. In just a few weeks, most businesses—from small Main Street shops to giant enterprise organizations—needed to shift to remote work or quickly pivot to find ways to keep employees on the payroll. 

So how do you know when you need to pivot your strategy? If key indicators highlight that a shift is on the horizon, it's best to evaluate whether the pivot will be a large, organization-wide change or a more simple change. Is your team maxed out? Are productivity and retention taking a hit? It may be time to restructure your teams and secure some more headcount. Is your customer base changing or jumping ship and heading to your competition? Maybe it's time to reevaluate your customer's current needs and the way you're connecting with them. Do you find yourself slowed down by legacy systems and processes? A full digital transformation is likely necessary for you to keep pace with your competitors and meet your customer's expectations. 

Here are three common ways to pivot and how you can execute them effectively. 

Pivot your vision

A vision pivot is likely the most holistic and most challenging type of strategic pivot. As a result, it will require more coordination and collaboration across the organization. 

A holistic vision change can be necessary due to an emerging technology that makes your offering obsolete. Or perhaps you've made many small pivots that have changed your organization's strategic direction. When making a visionary strategic shift, it's essential to look at as many data points as possible before pivoting—loop in key stakeholders, investors, and advisors to help you avoid surprises or missteps. 

Pivot your product

Unless you're in the nostalgia or collectible business, your product will need to evolve to adapt to changing market conditions, customer demands, new research, and technological advances. Even a company as globally successful as Starbucks switches up its menu to keep things fresh. 

As you pivot your product, be sure first to incorporate feedback from your customers. Use their feedback to guide the extent of the pivots you'll need to make. Start with small changes early, measure their impact, then iterate and learn. 

Pivot your strategy

A shift in strategy is similar to a change in vision but focuses on specific tactics regarding individual teams or departments. If your company decides to target an emerging customer base, your channel strategy and brand voice may need to change. If the pivot puts you in a new market entirely, you may need to reevaluate strategies, approaches, and processes across every arm of the organization. Either way, the business should ground any strategy shift in what's worked—and what hasn't worked—in the past. 

How to implement a pivot strategy

Now that you've evaluated when and where you might need to pivot, let's talk about how to lead your organization to more profitable pastures. 

Move quickly 

Once you decide to pivot, trust the data and insight that led you to that decision and act quickly. Decisive action will help you avoid wasting time, effort, and money. Beyond that, it will build trust among employees who might feel trepidation about a shift. You'll need everyone working in lockstep to implement your pivot strategy successfully. 

Align your goals to the pivot

Again, a pivot isn't usually a complete strategic overhaul of the business. Still, you wouldn't measure your time in a marathon against your goal for a 5K race, right? The same goes for any pivot in your business plan. Take a look at the milestones you've set along the way and adjust accordingly to ensure you're running toward the right finish line. 

Don't fix what's not broken

A pivot doesn't have to result in a complete overhaul of your strategic plans. Your team undoubtedly made a lot of smart, strategic decisions while executing your previous strategic plan. It's important to pinpoint exactly what's not working, so you don't throw out good work that led to any previous wins. 

Listen to your customers

It's worth repeating: A customer-centric mindset will never lead you astray. Pay close attention to your customer feedback. It will often do a lot of the heavy lifting on strategic thinking for you. 

Maintain a growth mindset 

Pivoting can undoubtedly help you get around a roadblock, but make sure there isn't another one sitting directly behind the first. As you build out a strategic plan to make your pivot, consider the opportunities for growth and expansion in your new path. A new streamlined offering might make good strategic sense in some ways, but if the resulting customer base is smaller, then you're limiting your opportunities for expansion and growth. 

How to communicate a business strategy pivot

Brand pivots can be an uncertain time for many companies. Whenever a brand pivots, one of the most essential and critical elements to focus on is communication. A comprehensive communication plan that loops in all internal and external stakeholders will help the company maintain transparency and trust while the business is pivoting. 

Sell the story 

You've crunched the numbers and know you're making the right strategic move. Now, sell it. A compelling story that clearly outlines the problem and the solution can do wonders to evangelize the value of changing course both inside and outside your organization. 

Data storytelling can also help you paint the picture for the future vision of your brand. Incorporate data visualizations to illustrate precisely where things were going awry and how pivoting will help you get things back on track. 

Show continuity 

Your business is built on trust, so it's important to show continuity in the pivot. If the pivot is framed as a smart and organic progression of the brand and company, customers and other external stakeholders will view it as an exciting shift vs. a sign of instability. If your brand vision aligns to a broader societal purpose, (i.e. Google's brand manifesto of "creating products for everyone") you can build organic flexibility into your brand, allowing for more pivots and innovation. 

As an organization, you can also build out clear product roadmaps and sprint planning templates to demonstrate exactly how you'll successfully execute the pivot. 

Be empathetic 

Regardless of how well you communicate your pivot, some employees, customers, and stakeholders will still be wary of change. Be empathetic of resistance to likely changes to processes and company structure. 

Change is an inevitable part of modern-day business. No matter the reason for a strategic business pivot, smart companies learn to embrace quick, decisive pivots to keep the business sustainable while staying grounded in what they've learned.

Need to make a strategic shift? Learn a new (and better) way of strategic planning.
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