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StrategyApr 23, 2020

A Framework For Response to Economic Shock and Uncertainty

Gail Stout Perry, Christopher Tung, and Jim Nadalini

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic. In response, governments restricted large social gatherings, closed non-essential business locations, and advised individuals to stay home. This sudden change in business operations and human behavior jolted the economy to a bleak reversal of its steady, bullish market. Though intuitive that a pandemic would slow the global economy, its manifestation was not as predictable. Since March, certain industries have regressed more than others—think airlines, lodging, restaurants, and entertainment—while other industries have grown—like grocery stores, online shopping, and digital entertainment. Yet, not all companies within their respective industries have been impacted equally. Some companies have utilized digital capabilities to adapt service offerings; some companies have implemented thought-out, business continuity plans; some companies have done both. Regardless, organizations hoping to survive and grow beyond the current pandemic will require an organized framework for addressing the long-term economic implications of COVID-19. For this, we propose the following framework: Now/Next/Future.

a framework for action: now/next/future

We developed the Now/Next/Future framework in response to the impact of COVID-19 to help companies react, respond, and plan strategically during times of economic shock and uncertainty. This framework emphasizes three specific, interconnected workstreams:

  1. Now | How will you react to meet critical needs?

  2. Next | How will you respond to changing inputs?

  3. Future | How will you plan to compete in the new normal?

Within the framework, each of the workstreams focuses on a key timeframe during crisis.

Now aims to stabilize the business—reacting to rapid external change, assessing the internal impact, and executing business continuity plans

Next leads a response to optimize resources during the crisis—using strategic innovation to address the temporary changes in supply, demand, and behavior

Future crafts a plan to navigate the new definition of normal following the crisis—forecasting fundamental shifts in consumer behavior and the macro-environment

While each targets a separate time horizon, they are designed to run concurrently. This encourages companies to remain forward-looking while still tackling immediate challenges.

five dimensions

Though companies may use their own approaches to organize action within the framework, we identified five key dimensions to help guide organizations as they assess, plan, and act across the Now, Next, and Future workstreams. These five dimensions include:

  • Customers | How will you continue to engage, drive loyalty, and deliver value to customers?

  • Employees | How will you balance cash flow, human welfare, and long-term perception?

  • Operations | How will you optimize operations and organizational capabilities?

  • Finance | How will you model and achieve financial viability?

  • Data & Tech | How will you adapt data & tech to support quick changes & long-term strategy?

These five dimensions are designed to help companies assess impacts and identify key considerations as they explore relevant responses to the crisis. The following table provides an example of how they fit into the Now/Next/Future model with some questions to help guide planning and execution:

taking action

Inevitably, companies responding to the crisis will pursue separate initiatives and develop their own strategies to tailor-fit gaps and pain points. However, emerging insights will drive common initiatives across organizations’ Next and Future workstreams. Envision essential digital transformation, accelerated direct-to-consumer channels, and data-driven customer relationships. While not an exhaustive list, these themes surfaced and are currently enabling companies to meet both essential and non-essential customer needs. Looking ahead, new consumer habits and growing digital-first behavior will elevate companies who have evolved to fit the mold of the new post-pandemic normal. Whether an organization leads or lags in digital maturity, they must be prepared to address customers now asking, “Why should I do this in person?”

Though not a panacea for protecting company health during crises, the Now/Next/Future framework, along with its five dimensions, is designed to help companies develop optimal, strategic responses by encouraging companies to:

  • Assess internal assets & capabilities

  • Forecast changing behaviors & macro-conditions

  • Explore the impacts of the crisis across the five dimensions of each workstream

  • Identify critical action items to address impacts

  • Prioritize overall initiatives by workstream categorization—Now, Next, then Future, respectively

  • Assemble a roadmap to accomplish critical actions items

For individuals, action is clear—stay home, social distance, wash your hands, and exercise vigilance. For companies—stabilize your organization, innovate to meet changing supply, demand, and behavior, and plan to compete in the new normal following the crisis. Download the framework here.

partner with us

Credera can help you apply this framework through the following:

  • Now/Next/Future Executive Workshop | Our interactive Now/Next/Future Workshop (delivered virtually) engages an organization’s leadership team to apply the framework to the organization’s specific and unique situation to identify emerging opportunities and prioritize critical next steps to ensure sustainability.

  • Organizational Health Dashboard | Credera’s Organizational Health Dashboard measures five dimensions of performance across Now, Next, and Future horizons to help executives visualize performance gaps and prioritize key initiatives.

  • Rapid Innovation Sprint | A Rapid Innovation Sprint (delivered virtually) brings expert resources to guide your team through tackling a key problem/question. This could be strategic business, product, or service innovation—or simply rapid ideation, prototyping, and testing of an opportunity/solution to a tactical problem.

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