Hop on a call, join an event, or scan social media and you’ll find numerous references. Many friends, colleagues, and neighbors are celebrating graduation, a long-standing tradition that continues to delight us. Speeches applaud accomplishments and look to the future.
It’s commencement season.
Commencement means a beginning or new start. High school and university graduates are beginning new chapters in their lives and careers. This year, business is experiencing a similar opportunity. We’re navigating significant economic and societal shifts and rethinking how and where we work. We’re highlighting what we achieved and re-envisioning the future, once again embracing a longer view. For graduates and business alike, it’s commencement season.
A new beginning benefits from defining where you’re headed. In fact, I am supporting many of my executive clients as they decide what comes next. Rather than simply returning to previous norms, I encourage them to identify and embrace the unexpected opportunities that have emerged. Consider these:
What parts of the playing field have been leveled over the last year?
What has accelerated?
What has stalled?
These three questions apply equally to both internal and external shifts. They inform immediate decisions - about the work, the workforce, and accelerating performance. (See here and here.) They also illuminate important external shifts – changes to the competitive playing field, accelerating market trends, or different customer needs. For example:
Structure: During global shutdown, video tools literally created new windows into the lives of our leaders and staff. We invited everyone into our homes, perhaps for the first time. Formality and hierarchy gave way to familiarity and common ground.
Relationships: Of necessity, we learned to relate differently to each other, our customers, and stakeholders. Learning and adapting on the fly became critical to establish a new rhythm.
Competitive Landscape: After a drop in M&A activity early in the 2020 pandemic, opportunities and deals quickly gained momentum. Merging companies figured out how to integrate businesses and create new cultures even while navigating a pandemic, economic uncertainty, and talent wars.
Business Models: Certainly, we can all cite examples of products and services that succeeded or failed during the crises of 2020-2022. The systemic nature of the crises also had a profound effect on business models. In-person services, experiences, and events rapidly gave way to other formats, creating new opportunities to generate revenue and capture customers. Consider the blend of old and new that makes sense for those you serve and your businesses.
Even as we view the global pandemic and social shifts from the rear-view mirror, it's worth taking a moment to reflect. The three questions are not tied to specific circumstances. They provoke insight while spurring CEOs and executives to applaud accomplishments while also looking ahead. Identify the implications of these shifts - and your responses - to determine the actions needed to move beyond today. Prior ideas may have become irrelevant. New insights may elevate the potential for something sitting on the shelf. Or, innovation may take a new turn.
It’s commencement season. What will you begin?