Member Nadim Maluf Speaks: When Pivoting, Hypothesize, Then Act

The Challenge:

The situation at hand involves an executive who needed to pivot and was seeking insight into effective next steps. He not only had questions about strategy, but was also hoping to marshal the enthusiasm of his team to embrace a new course.

If you were in this situation, what would you do?

If I were in your shoes, no matter what direction I’m considering, I would start by determining if there’s a product-market fit. It is easy to get swept up in a new idea, but fundamentally one cannot know at the start if it is the right choice. Therefore, I would establish my hypothesis and test it as quickly as possible. The reason for the speed imperative is that when pivoting we are usually operating on borrowed time with a shortened runway. A great way to quickly gather information is to speak with customers and partners. However, I would remember that the customer does not always know what is best—or even what they want! I would soak up information, but maintain skepticism as well. I admire Steve Jobs as an example of someone who understood what the customers needed before they did.

I’ve seen leaders decide on a pivot and then realize their team is not exactly chomping at the bit to change course. Perhaps certain executives have their own departmental inertia, like a head of engineering who is not inclined to redesign the product from the ground up. But remember, this is not a democracy. If a leader has decided on a new direction, he or she now has the responsibility to gain confidence, not consensus, from the troops. I find this is best done by sharing some—usually not all—of my thinking with the team. Even though I may have been mulling over this decision for months, they are often just getting up to speed. Have patience, communicate clearly and, if there is still resistance, then consider helping folks transition within or out of the company. Best of luck!