Planning for the human side of strategy

Watch the full recorded broadcast above.

Most of us assume that sound business strategy is resilient to disruption. Organizations with a robust and well-executed strategy should be positioned to withstand new competitors, a talent shortage, or even a recession. How then has the COVID-19 crisis jolted so many organizations and so quickly?

If your team is feeling uncertain, you’re not alone. Our survey data shows lower engagement and higher anxiety reported by employees across Canada. Old ways of doing business seem out of step with the new world, and many leaders are questioning whether any pre-COVID-19 thinking is still relevant today.

While it may be tempting to hit the reset button, changing your strategy might not be the best idea.

On August 20, 2020, we were joined by Janeen Speer, VP of Talent at Shopify, Cheesan Chew, MBA ’04, COO at RBC Ventures, and Tineke Keesmaat, MBA ’05, founder of TILTCO Inc. to discuss the human side of strategy. We looked at organizations responding to COVID-19 with human-centric strategies and offered real-world tips for leaders facing uncertainty from the economic shocks of the global pandemic.

Key webinar content

Core topics

  • How should leaders think about and execute strategy right now?
  • Linking strategy ideation with execution
  • The anticipated duration of uncertainty and instability caused by the COVID-19 crisis
  • Tracking results and making ad hoc changes to strategy
  • The “Strategy on a Page” template
  • Incorporating human-centricity into corporate strategy
  • The concept of “antifragility”
  • Guiding teams through uncertainty
  • Practical tips for balancing tunnel vision with scanning the environment
  • Leadership self-awareness within the context of COVID-19
  • Operating from a place of fear and reminding yourself of your commitment
  • Pandemic-influenced practices that should continue into the future
  • Balancing the speed of strategy execution with making space for empathy

Memorable quotes

“(Human-centricity) is the ability to hold attention between empathy and accountability. It's about giving people what they need to be comfortable, confident, and creative.” – Janeen Speer

“Three bricklayers were asked what they were doing. The first one said, ‘I’m laying bricks.’ The second one said, ‘I’m building a wall.’ The third one said, ‘I’m building a cathedral to the heavens.’ Their productivity, motivation, and morale go up depending on what their perspective and mindset is. I believe that extends beyond the individual to organizations as well.” – Cheesan Chew, MBA ’04

“We’ve really worked to instill this belief that learning is infinite. Every single one of us is here to be both teachers and learners on our journey. That has come into play in a really helpful way over the past few months because the more anti-fragile people can become, the more we can focus on being in the space of ambiguity.” – Janeen Speer

“What we’ve been working through with our people is focusing on areas where you can get a little bit more clarity without actually needing certainty and understanding that distinction.” – Janeen Speer

“In times when you’re feeling fear, it’s very common that you start to make decisions and take next steps from a place of fear. That can be problematic and lead to poor decision-making because you’re focused on what you don’t want to bring into reality instead of what you do want to bring into reality.” – Janeen Speer

“In no other time have I seen more empathy from colleague to colleague, from leader to team than I have in the last period. I would love to see that continue even when we return to the office – this idea of empathy for our colleagues.” – Cheesan Chew, MBA ’04

Session materials

Click the above image to view slides, or download the slide deck presentation.

Additional reading

The Human Side of Business, MITSloan Management Review
Adaptability quotient, The Ivey Academy
Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, Nassim Taleb


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About The Ivey Academy at Ivey Business School
The Ivey Academy at Ivey Business School is the home for executive Learning and Development (L&D) in Canada. It is Canada’s only full-service L&D house, blending Financial Times top-ranked university-based executive education with talent assessment, instructional design and strategy, and behaviour change sustainment. 

Rooted in Ivey Business School’s real-world leadership approach, The Ivey Academy is a place where professionals come to get better, to break old habits and establish new ones, to practice, to change, to obtain coaching and support, and to join a powerful peer network. Follow The Ivey Academy on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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