Companies evolve; it’s in their nature. To be successful and keep employees motivated, companies have to react to the market, stay on top of what customers want, and keep up with the competition. However, some changes are more significant than others, to the extent that a company may change its direction or pivot.
Eric Ries, the author of The Lean Startup, defines a pivot as “structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, strategy, and engine of growth.” In other words, a pivot is a change in business strategy that tests a new approach.
Getting a business off the ground is an intensive process, and teams, especially in the early stages, tend to be small and involved. When your business decides to pivot, your entire team is affected and, depending on how their work is impacted, it can be a complicated process. Ultimately, however, the success of your company is dependent on teamwork.
Here are a few tips on how to pivot and keep your team motivated while doing so.
1. Know when to pivot.
A pivot is not a strategy to use lightly. Some challenges can be resolved with less drastic measures, like doing more research, obtaining more funding or increasing customer development. It’s important to investigate other avenues first because your company should pivot only when it is necessary.
A few signs that a pivot might be necessary include:
- Low market response
- Negative customer feedback
- Perpetual catch-up mode
- Too much competition
- Lack of a unique brand offering
A pivot is also a good choice if your company simply needs to change its focus with a new perspective or if you want to add a new solution to existing offerings.
2. Gather data.
Though the entire team will be affected by a pivot, involving a team too early can be a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. As a leader, you’re responsible for gathering all the data and setting the course. In the case of a pivot, this will involve revisiting the company’s original goals and vision.
The vision might be part of what needs adjusting, in which case it is important to question the company foundations in light of new knowledge to identify what needs adjusting and why. Take into account marketing data, revenue streams, and customer feedback. Every pivot is different, but every pivot solves a problem.
Another important step a leader should take to gather data is to speak with the team. Employee opinions and ideas are often a good gauge of the team temperature. They know the product and the market better than anyone and have a good sense of the gaps and challenges the company faces. Regular check-in conversations with your team can be a great help in deciding to pivot.
3. Make a plan.
Often, the realization that a pivot is necessary comes on slowly, as the sum of multiple factors. But once the decision has been made, it is important to act on it efficiently and create a detailed plan. First, identify what changes need to be made and what will be left alone. As part of the plan, make sure to identify precise solutions to specific challenges, as well as growth opportunities and success metrics.
4. Communicate with and motivate your team.
When it’s go-time, it is vital to communicate the plan to your team with care. Explicitly address what will stay the same to provide some constancy and help reassure employees amid significant changes. Another strategy is to highlight how the changes will make things easier on your team, especially if the change in direction is to resolve an issue. Just like when explaining the changes to the customer, talk about the positives first.
As a leader, one of the best strategies is to create space to hear employee concerns, questions, and input. Though the decision comes from the top, taking into account your team’s reactions and ideas will help get everyone on board and excited about the changes ahead. It is also important to remember that communicating with your team is not a one-time strategy, but a continuous effort. Putting a pivot plan in motion is only the first step in a lengthy process that requires consistent team buy-in and collaboration, and communication is key to maintaining that. As a leader, you are responsible for motivation too.
5. Provide resources to help your team succeed.
Keeping employees informed is essential for navigating a pivot, but it’s also important to give your team the resources and support they need to be successful. Your team will likely have to communicate the changes to clients, partners, and investors. Help prepare them to handle those situations gracefully and in keeping with the company message by providing language and coaching. Talk through the changes for each department and set clear goals and performance metrics so that everyone can judge how things are going as things progress.
Pivots can pose challenges for a growing business, but they are a sign of strategic thinking and problem solving, which is essential for success. Most companies will undergo several pivots, so it is important as a team to get comfortable with them and learn how to handle them together, with strong leadership, clear communication, and focused collaboration.