How to guide your nonprofit through the unexpected
A few months ago, BDI was forced to reschedule our annual company retreat due to a freak hurricane that hit Southern California… bringing a year’s worth of rain in a single day!
The importance of being prepared for unexpected circumstances was clear.
As I look back on this challenging event, I see that it’s essential for any organization to stay agile, resilient and responsive to an ever-changing environment. But here’s the great news: our retreat was a resounding success… all due to strategic pivoting!
According to Merriam-Webster, “pivoting” means to adapt or improve by adjusting or modifying something (such as a product, service or strategy). It’s the art of embracing change and seizing new opportunities, and it entails making significant shifts in strategy and direction.
Another recent example of strategic pivoting many of us experienced came when the COVID pandemic hit in early 2020. Companies around the world had to adjust how they ran their businesses. The concept of “work from home” became a new reality for many, and in some cases, it was mandatory. Many companies quickly adapted to these challenging circumstances and chose to allow employees to work from home for the very first time.
Other industries had to pivot strategically too. Some nonprofit organizations that provide human services and assistance had to scale back services, grocery stores restricted the number of customers allowed inside their stores and many restaurants only offered takeout orders. All these entities had to think outside of the box and deviate from the traditional way of doing things to survive.
In a recent article, author Allen Stafford explains why strategic pivoting is essential. These principles are true for teams in both for-profit and nonprofit fields. He states:
- Market dynamics: Industries constantly evolve, and market dynamics can shift rapidly. Companies that can pivot their strategies and operations to stay in tune with these changes are better positioned to survive and thrive.
- Customer needs: Consumer preferences and demands are continually evolving. By pivoting, businesses can adapt their products, services and customer experiences to cater to these changing needs and maintain customer satisfaction.
- Technological advancements: Technological innovations often disrupt traditional business models and create new opportunities. Companies that pivot and embrace these advancements can harness their potential to increase efficiency, reduce costs and gain a competitive edge.
- Competition: Businesses that can pivot in response to competitive pressures are more likely to maintain their market share and stay ahead of rivals. It allows them to differentiate themselves, improve their offerings and better address customer needs.
- Risk management: Pivoting enables businesses to identify and mitigate risks before they harm the company’s success. By proactively adapting to changing circumstances, businesses can protect their investments and maintain financial stability.
Bear in mind that strategic pivoting in ever-changing times is essential for any business or organization to survive and stay ahead, and doing this at the right time and at the right moment – even under pressure – is especially critical.
When it comes to strategic pivoting in unexpected situations, I think of what Roger Martin once wrote: “Strategy is a theory – a theory about how to compete in an always uncertain future world. When that theory is tested against that unfolding world, its validity is either confirmed or not. In the latter case, it is a signal that it is time to pivot – but not randomly.”
Being strategic in the face of crisis and a deadline can be stressful and challenging, but meeting the unexpected with strategy can position your team for success. I hope these insights will give you a fresh perspective for when your nonprofit inevitably faces new challenges and opportunities – and remember that BDI is always here to come alongside you!
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