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Where’s The Puck Going?

by David Brock on June 11th, 2020

“I skate to where the puck is going to be…” It’s a quote attributed to Wayne Gretsky about what differentiated his style of play from other hockey players. It’s old, after all, Gretsky retired in 1999. It’s tired, the metaphor has been applied to so many things–I’ve used it in different contexts in many past posts.

But it’s still useful. Particularly, as we look at organizational and go to customer strategies in the middle of the pandemic and the worst global economic downturn most of us have experienced.

It’s interesting to see the various mindsets and approaches around what to do next, where to go, how to recover, how to grow, even how to thrive.

Too many organizations are focusing on where the puck was….. looking for things to get back to normal. News flash, the puck will never be there again, the train has left that station (Ugh Dave, stop using terrible metaphors!)

Most organizations are chasing the puck, going to where it is right now. They are trying to stabilize things, recover lost revenue, maintain it, struggle to get some growth. They are struggling to keep up, always chasing something but perhaps getting there a little late.

Then there are the small number of most interesting organizations. They are making informed guesses about where the puck is going–some even looking ways to shape the direction of where the puck is going.

They recognize that what we are going through presents tremendous, though different opportunities for the future. They are rethinking every thing, making investments, preparing themselves to address new opportunities with their customers, thinking of how they can create new opportunities with their customers.

They are asking themselves questions like:

  1. What are and will our customers face as they recover and grow? How can we help them make sense of this, grow and thrive?
  2. Where are they going and what are they going to be prioritizing?
  3. What new opportunities should we be looking at and preparing to address?
  4. What are the things that will be most important to our customers next year, in two years? What do we need to do to help them address those?
  5. What opportunities can we create for our customers? What should they be thinking about as they develop their recovery strategies? How do we help teach them these things?
  6. What new capabilities do we need to develop to support these things? What investments should we be making now to be prepared to support and lead our customers in the coming year?

These companies are looking, eagerly, to the future and how they can shape it and capitalize on the opportunities (some still unknown) that are created.

They are skating to where they think the puck is going to be, making sure they are prepared to act when they encounter it. Ironically, if the puck ends up in a slightly different space, they will be best prepared to adjust and respond.

We shouldn’t be surprised to see these three different approaches to how companies are managing and responding to COVID and the economic crises. In truth, this is not different from “BC.” Great companies have always focused on where the puck is going to be and shaping their direction. The majority of companies are still chasing the puck, and the low/inconsistent performers struggle finding it–only occasionally tripping over it.

What the current crisis has done is made all of this more visible and more urgent. It has enabled the great companies to widen the gap in performance with their competitors and to better exploit the opportunities being created.

Thanks Wayne!

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