Executing the Pivot

Change is tough enough. No one likes it. The tendency is to deny the reasons for change exist and then procrastinate taking action. Sometimes, in a crisis, we have to change immediately. In a crisis, things are not just different, they have to turn around. Businesses from time to time have to deal with this type of required, rapid change. What has to be executed is called the “pivot.”

In basketball, the pivot is a move allowing a player to turn and not be guilty of a walking violation (failing to dribble the ball while stepping with the ball). If the player keeps one foot on the floor, turning on the ball of the foot, while moving around with the other foot, the player has made a pivot and is not required to dribble. This makes more sense to me than the dictionary definition of pivot: “of crucial importance in relation to the development or success of something else.” A pivot is a change to a different direction without complete abandonment of the prior position and carries with it the context of rapidity. The pivot is a quick reaction to a perceived need to change quickly.

In business, we may need to change quickly because that is how the business will survive. We may need to change quickly to take advantage of an opportunity. Recognizing that it is hard to change over time, how do we change quickly? How can the business execute the pivot?

The primary factor in business success is good decision-making. Simply because the decision must be quick, it should not be reflexive. Embedded in the business culture should be the procedure of group decision-making for all important decisions. If this is the culture, the decision to pivot will be made according to that group decision-making procedure. As a primary matter, the culture of the business should require that decisions to be made about significant matters be made according to a process that not only requires the definition of a timeline for the decision and inventorying adequate information but also obtaining relevant advice including advice from those who will carry out the actions contemplated by the decision. It is this polling of experts, those experienced, those knowledgeable, and those who will execute actions contemplated by the decision, that makes the process a group process. The decision to pivot, even if made quickly, should use this process.

Once the decision has been made, for a business that has a dynamic business planning environment, the task is easier. The problems that arise with a business planning pivot often are based on the effectiveness of communication within the business. In this case, the business with a dynamic planning format will communicate more effectively than the business with a legacy approach to planning communication. The dynamic plan format allows immediate communication of relevant plan activities to appropriate groups in the business. The format can be a shared spreadsheet or be a software product such as Microsoft Teams designed for the purpose. A dynamic plan will tend to start itself if the format is present, but it takes discipline to keep the plan effective. The core discipline is the group decision-making process, which in its written form should be part of the plan format, which also will document the overall plan. The short-term goals will suggest actions that are determined through the decision-making policy by the management and operational groups. When these action decisions are made they are communicated through the plan format. Upon notice, the operational group executes the actions. The administrative and management groups monitor and analyze the effects of the actions, and this information is placed in the plan format. As the policy group receives information about the effect of the actions taken, goals can be revised or new goals set. In this way, the circular plan process (set goals, determine actions to reach the goals, execute the actions to reach the goals, monitor the effectiveness of the actions, revise the actions or goals as is appropriate, new actions are determined, and so forth) continues as each group acts as it receives information through the plan format. With a legacy planning environment, different groups must be notified directly through separate communication channels with the exchange of information often not being timely.

Perhaps the most important communication will involve a clear understanding of what is not changing. We do not want to move the pivot foot, we want to change direction. In a crisis, communication suffers when it is not complete. With legacy communication methods, there is ample opportunity for incomplete communication, where with a dynamic planning environment all planning activities are communicated to all groups as they occur. If there is a misunderstanding in the dynamic planning environment, it will be recognized and corrected.

If a crisis occurs and you need to pivot, do not make a reflexive decision, make a considered decision using the group decision-making policy. Use a dynamic plan format to communicate decisions, actions, and revisions. Make sure it is understood what is not changing. Always be ready to revise based on action results.