The Regret-Free Business Diet

Following a year of resets, CEOs must focus on taking strategic actions that are not based on the pandemic past or the unknown crisis of the future.

While “pandemic” was bestowed the honor of being named Merriam-Webster’s “Word of the Year” for the tumultuous stretch of days and months that was 2020, it is another contender, “reset,” which I feel may very well linger within our collective psyche.

We have been continuously asked, compelled and, in a lot of ways, forced to reset pretty much everything we do—where we work, how we learn, who we socialize with, which businesses we can shop in, where we can go and so much more in between. These resets were not small, nor were they easily executed amid the unprecedented levels of uncertainty we faced. But also, not without their own silver linings, like becoming more globally connected while more locally grounded, with some of us even having an opportunity to reconnect with nature and our surroundings.

There was little in the form of recent examples to mimic or proven solutions to scale from our history, and unlike any other moment in time, we all were facing the same challenges, apart but together. And it is the next phase—the next reset—which can’t be done on adrenaline alone as we did last year. Success beyond the resets hinges on active resilience found in taking ‘no-regret’ actions.

Moving at the speed of crisis

Prior to the pandemic, Accenture research showed that only 5% of companies across industries updated their operating model on an annual or continuous basis. Those figures look much different now, with the pandemic forcing companies to reassess and make long-overdue changes, and to do so faster than they ever had to move before.

Leaders now recognize the flexibility needed to thrive not just survive, committing to making regular tweaks and tangible refinements to keep their engines running. We must double-down on maintaining this new agility. Pre-Covid, our research showed just 40% of executives feeling highly agile when it came to flexibly making changes to their organizations, and that number dropped to a glum 18% today.

This is why in my conversations with C-suite leaders, my peers, partners and our people, the theme I saw emerge over and over as 2020 was coming to an end, was the need for finding and focusing in on “regret-free” strategies, both personal and professional.

No time for regrets

What a company stands for, its purpose beyond what it merely says or sells, is not just a guiding light but a necessary blueprint for weathering crises and enjoying the peace times alike. Purposeful leadership and collaboration are key tenets of any strategy with sights on growth. Nothing can replace an emphatic and empathetic leader with a clear vision of shared success at all levels of an organization.

There is no resetting these core values.

What I mean by this notion of making no-regret decisions is taking strategic actions regardless of the pandemic past or crisis of the future, as they will strengthen enterprises over time. A key example of an absolute no-regret decision is to accelerate digital transformations already underway in your organization.

Technology has always been core to recovery given its potential to drive both growth and innovation, and organizations must continue to invest in the technologies that scale their digital foundation to continue this growth. We see that a lot of leaders are indeed already hyper-focused on this, largely unplanned, progress to develop and scale a range of technologies, such as cloud (82%), AI (81%) and Internet of Things (80%) among others.

Whether quickly adopting remote work and collaboration tools, spinning up virtual agents to help manage an influx of customer inquiries, or working to optimize their supply chains in a constantly shifting global climate, the time and monetary commitment to maintaining continuity in business has been significant.

Other digital investments—more integrated ecommerce capabilities, additional AI, enhanced supply chain resiliency—should be at the top of any no-regret strategy as the pandemic made clear one essential truth: Dependable, connected technology will save, and has saved, many businesses. In our landmark trend research Tech Vision 2021 we usher in the age of every leader needing to become a technology leader, with technology sustaining us through the pandemic it must now continue to redefine how we work, live and interact.

Additionally, an emerging, or re-emerging, no-regret decision is the renewed ambition to make businesses sustainable and responsible. More than two-thirds of C-suite leaders now affirm to having action plans in place to adopt and scale sustainable business practices across the organization. This is a clear moment and opportunity for every company to reset as a sustainable business, not at the expense of, but as catalyst for being more profitable and successful at the same time.

Always make time for people

Now, as business recovery evolves, altered by regional behaviors and changing consumer demands, it’s important to continue to reset your operation while remaining agile and embracing innovation.

Where that agility is most critical, not surprisingly, is with people.

Simply put, human needs should be core to each decision. Growth is important, but people are central to success—and they want to help. So let them, or else they will be the reason for your failure. We have made it through some dark depths together, and we cannot allow for self-sabotage or seasonal malaise to deter any personal needs or professional ambitions of your people.

When the pandemic hit, the focus was rightly on workplace safety and ensuring employees could successfully work remotely. Now that this is table stakes for most, it is time to adapt and rethink how to form teams within these remote ecosystems to drive innovation and growth, boost technology upskilling, reward collaboration over competition and seed trust through supportive leadership. Moreover, almost half (47%) of leaders we spoke with said they are already investing in a change management approach that unlocks human ingenuity to drive their business transformation.

Unfortunately, we seem to not quite be done with this pandemic, nor it with us. We will continue to see multiple speeds of recovery, setbacks and, certainly, unpredictable reactions from local and national leaders regarding the global health crisis. Despite these challenges, success is not meant to seem as unlikely as it sounds, because the biggest regret is often doing nothing at all—which is not an option.

Today, we are far more prepared, far more eager and far more equipped to deal with tomorrow. Especially if we do so with the intent of emerging stronger long-term as we look forward to course-correct for growth, and not looking over our shoulder for survival.

Rachael Bartels is senior managing director and global lead for Function Networks and Programs at Accenture. She is responsible for developing the talent and offerings of function networks and programs within Accenture Strategy & Consulting.