Nusbacher Associates

A LinkedIn article by Lynette Nusbacher

I’m doing COVID-19 work.

To some extent I’m happy to be there for my clients when they need to shift focus away from strategy to put some structure around their close game. I know that structured tools are good for crisis management. Fire-fighting is important when there are fires; that’s why we use that fire metaphor. You can’t ignore operations, especially when facing discontinuous change.

Nonetheless, the ruin of every corporate strategy director and every strategy VP is fire-fighting. People with sharp minds, highly regarded, and close to the Chief Exec: the characteristics of the strategy director are identical to the characteristics of a good person to have on hand in a crisis. And there is always a crisis.

Business culture favours the hero, and fire-fighting is heroic. Making strategy is important, but even the noisiest strategy launch is a limp biscuit next to Saving the Day. There are no incentives to any senior person in any business which lead them to say, ‘never mind the looming crisis, I’m thinking 18 to 24 months out.’

What I so often provide to my clients is the time and structure that gets them to the strategic level, at least for the duration of the workshop. To this day, I think my highest-value engagement ever was an hour with the board of a vast global mining company, in which every single one of them had their phones off and their brains locked on the idea of making and operationalising strategy.

So right now I’m going onto a call; and the left-hand side of the page is about COVID-19, and business continuity over the next six and twelve months; and the right-hand side of the page is on building and branding Coronavirus-related business without being ghoulish and inappropriate. Bottom right corner of the page, though, is the strategy work from two weeks ago. That is going to have to take up at least a quarter of the call.

So I’m going to shift metaphors away from that fire-fighting. I’m going to go maritime. Sailors in a storm need to keep up with damage control, and keep pumping out the bilges ; but there is still always someone in the wheelhouse holding tight to the wheel and keeping a close eye on the compass.

Now I’m going to go on that COVID-19 call.


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