Chapter VI: The Strategic Metamorphosis

Coronavirus Crisis: 7 Leadership Lessons Learned from the Failure of Classic Strategy Models

Written by Dr Antoine Eid

The world is more Risk-Aware now. We have reacted to a global Crisis and managed to somehow contain immediate escalating damage. After observation, big questions needed to be asked: What led to us not predicting Crisis? Is there fault in existing Strategy models? Is there fault in contemporary Leadership?

Why Rethink Strategy?

Let us start by defining what textbook Strategy is:

The basic purpose of a Business Strategy is to take the company towards its reason for existing, whether that’s Profit, Charity, Service, or any other Purpose. It also plans how to utilize the resources to create a viable business case that will serve that Purpose.

There are different Strategy models, some are very robust and used around the world by many big organizations. These models study the market opportunities and threats, mostly in terms of micro and macro factors like market, regulations, technology, competition, product design, distribution, financial planning, etc. and they also prepare for potential contingencies.

People with placards and a protective suit on a global strike for climate change.

These models work well despite the fact that uncertainty in business has always been there, and they help prevent damage or reach a safe pre-planned outcome.

What these traditional models do not consider are risks bigger than the common ones, and the Coronavirus crisis is a big global example of a high-level unpredicted risk that affected almost every organization in the world in one way or another.

Two things to consider here:

1. Have the classic Strategy models
contributed to the world not being ready for a
major crisis?

2. Will new Business Strategy models
take into account these fast-developing
risk factors?

First Hypothesis

Let us start with the first hypothesis: Why weren’t most organizations prepared for a major risk?

The first factor is because the existing strategy models deal with Topical Risks and not with Systemic Risks. By the latter I mean any risk that can disrupt a whole system, spread fast and wide and affect bigger groups of people. The world is too busy thinking of how obstacles can be overcome or eliminated in order to make more money, while in the process putting a whole system at risk. And by whole system I mean global systems like data, nature, health, and society. It is human greed that seeks immediate benefits even if the future damage for others is seen (and that includes damage to our immediate children and grandchildren). So, we’ve identified a first fault in the existing strategic model: it does not take into account Systemic Risks.

Textbook Strategy Models do not consider Systemic Risks

The second factor is we have seen some organizations and governments put solid crisis management policies to help prevent more damage caused by the global crisis, but we haven’t seen much of these policies prevent damage from happening. What is the world occupied with right now? is it going back to a “normal” economic cycle? What will prevent what happened from happening again? We have not seen any big meetings or resolutions or strategies after several months of crisis.

Are we returning to an old defective strategic thinking model? Is there a fault with contemporary Leadership?

Concept of business strategy.

Second Hypothesis

The second hypothesis is: Will we see a new perspective on Business Strategy that can predict crisis or ideally prevent it?

I have seen some shy attempts from major strategic players and consultants in the world over the last few weeks to analyze some of the potential risks, sometimes even through a one-dimensional aspect and design basic strategic models to push leaders to consider some bigger risks. For example, some push for meeting the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Paris Agreement, or workforce changes. None of these basic models is comprehensive.

I have also seen a lot of reactive policy measures, mostly related to how we deal with another epidemic outbreak. Understandable, as the priority right now is health and safety.

Global strategy solution concept - earth jigsaw puzzle What is essential at the moment is asking all the “what if” questions. A quick live exercise in one of my latest webinars on the Leadership Coronicle™ Series, showed that within 30 minutes, participants were able to list 40 big threats that can disrupt the world system including data security, climate change, virus outbreak, war without rules, new worker profile, etc. All were considered as potentially big Systemic Risks.

Does your Strategic Model take into consideration both
Topical and Systemic Risks?

The Leapership Consultants Research Team suggests a more comprehensive Strategy model called: Strategy Rethinking Framework (SRF)™ . It pushes Leadership to equally consider both Topical and Systemic Risks and prepare for all possible contingencies. For Leaders, this is an essential Organizational Immunity exercise.

Strategic Rethinking Framework (SRF)™

7 Leadership Lessons

The 7 Leadership lessons to take from this Strategic Rethinking are:

  1. Take into consideration all the Possible Risks
  2. Divide risks into Topical and Systemic
  3. Plan how to Defend against all Factors
  4. Plan Short, Medium and Long Term
  5. Plan for Different Scenarios for every Risk
  6. Build a Culture of Ongoing Re-invention
  7. Integrate Global Policies into your Organizational Strategy

Final Thoughts

COVID-19 taught us a lesson about Organizational Readiness and Immunity. Wise Leaders are shifting their Strategic Thinking towards more global risks which can disrupt their businesses. A list of all the Topical and Systemic risks was compiled by the Leapership Consultants Research Team, and I am happy to share the advice on how this can impact your strategy.


Email me at: – or message me on LinkedIn.

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