The Ability To Pivot (Part 1)
The world is changing quickly and will continue to do so. Great leaders have the ability to recognize those changes and guide their organization and team accordingly.It's a recurring and well-worn theme in the tech world. Companies must innovate or be passed by. Think of just the world of social media. There was Myspace and then Facebook, and now the youth have moved primarily to Instagram and a handful of others. We even see it in the business enterprises, fitness centers, restaurants, and churches around us.The ability to adapt, to "pivot,'' is critical for organizations operating today in the hyper competitive and dynamic space of the internet world. Pivoting is “the art of recognizing that the pursuit of a specific idea, direction or product, in which you've invested significant time, money, and energy, is no longer the correct path to follow.”Do pivots matter? Yes, almost 100% of the time. I know this experience well. I have been pastor in the same area for about three decades. We would not be thriving and succeeding unless we had recognized and acted on pivotal moments. In that time, our mission has remained the same, but we have changed from a denominational church to an independent church, then to a network of multisites. Our strategy has changed multiple times. Our location has changed. Staff, slogans—you name it. We have pivoted many times.As important as a particular pivot decision is, the process begins with the steps you take early on. How do you know when to pivot and what to do?Your organization is always playing catch-up. If your company is progressing too slowly despite the amount of work you’re putting into it, you may need to consider pivoting. The company itself may not need to pivot, but you may need to pivot your model, product, or market.There’s too much competition. What you are doing mayseem unique and original at first, but there’s always a chance a bigger company with more resources and funding and a built-in audience will come along and create an offering that’s similar to yours, only better. Since you don’t really have much of a choice in this situation, it’s probably better to do something completely different.Your company has plateaued; leveled off. If you notice slow (or no) progress in your company’s development, then it’s possible it’s hit a plateau. This may be the result of boredom or an unmotivated team, or simply an inefficient strategy, but whatever the cause, a pivot should be considered. It doesn’t need to be a major pivot, but take an honest, objective look and identify something that can be revamped.One thing gets the most traction and best results. If only one aspect of your organization is succeeding and the rest are failing or simply maintaining, then that may mean that you should focus on what’s working, and radically change or completely ditch what isn’t working. Direct your attention to what works.There’s limited response to your kickoff. A lukewarm response in the beginning doesn’t usually predict a great future. It’s possible to generate some buzz with good PR, but you can only do so much to convince the world of the value.Your perspective has changed. After a while,there’s a possibility that your goals, vision, and values will change. You may realize that there are other, wiser avenues for you to pursue, and that your current course just isn’t for you.Know when it’s time to persevere and when it’s time to quit. Every organization experiences considerable difficulty on the road to success, but you have to know the difference between an obstacle and an impossibility. We will discuss this more next time.Once you’ve decided to pivot your company, here are some tips to help ensure that you reduce the risks associated with pivoting and increase your chances of a successful outcome:Do it as soon as you can. Many companies pivot more than once. You may have to change course a few times to get your company on the right track. However, if you are going to pivot, whether it’s once, twice, or multiple times, you need to do it as early as possible, as this helps avoid wasting time, effort, and money.Pick new goals that align with your vision. Be brutally honest with yourself. If the path you’re on now doesn’t feel right to you, you not only need to step back and evaluate your mission in life, but you need to put in extra time to ensure that your new vision is the right one for you.Don’t waste what you’ve already done. It’s important to identify what aspects of your company can be salvaged, kept, and reused.Listen to your customers. The feedback you receive from customers is a great indicator for whether you should pivot or not. While occasional negative feedback is expected, if you’re constantly getting criticism you might be ready for a pivot of some sort.Make sure your pivot presents opportunities for growth. Consider the opportunities for growth and expansion in your new path. Until the opportunities are clear, keep looking. Just remember, the more you prepare, the less you need to. Making decisions without thought is a recipe for disaster, so before you decide to take your company in a new direction, take the time to prepare.And then prepare some more.Be gusty, not foolish. These early days require a stubborn willingness to follow through on a vision that may not be completely clear or supported by everyone. But don’t allow yourself to reject insight that is desperately needed. Embrace feedback and consider all of it.Be transparent. Openness about your decision-making process with investors and employees is essential. No secrets.Don’t look back. One of the biggest challenges in pivoting is the uneasy feeling that maybe you didn't make the right choice. When you decide to take a new path, it needs your full support and attention. Anything less means you'll never know which way works best while spreading your business dangerously thin. Even more, you need to go all in as a group. There's a time for a debate, but once a decision has been made, everyone needs to get on board.Is it time to pivot?