UnleashWD: Deploying Agile Strategies in Times of Crises

BY Emily Saving
3/19/2020 - COVID-19

In an effort to continue to try and provide our members with resources that are easy to consume, and relevant to their own businesses, we are taking some information that has been developed and trying to “pare it down” as much as possible so you can easily find the identified portions that are most beneficial.

One resource that has been created in the wake of the COVID-19 virus is a video series developed by Dirk Beveridge from UnleashWD. In this particular video, “Deploying Agile Strategies in Times of Crises”, Dirk interviews Kaihan Krippendorff, Founder of Outthinker.

We have taken some time to pull some of the highlights and identify some important items that were covered, and then time stamp the video for easy access to everything that was covered in the video.



In traditional thinking, strategy looks a lot like lining up your chess pieces and executing against it, in a very linear process. How is strategy different in times of crisis? Consider the more agile OODA model.

OODA: Observe, Orient, Decide and Act

In times of turbulence, observe what is happening, orient yourself to a new environment, make a decision on that information, act on that decision, and observe what the result of your action is. While it seems simple, what it requires you to do is be willing to act without knowing the next step. As an example, superior athletes might spend 80% of their energy on deciding on what do now, while inferior ones might spend 80% thinking about what is going to happen. The agile approach comes from taking action, observing that result, and then deciding the next action.

So what about traditional ROI analysis where streams of data help inform decisions? In this time of crisis, there is no data to support one action over another to inform our strategies. The focus here switches from historical data to quick but thorough analysis of the reactions to your actions.

So what do we look for during the observation phase? It’s important to be mindful about why people are ‘retreating.’ Krippendorff draws a parallel here about a building being on fire and crowds of people running away. Are they running away because the building is on fire, or because everybody else is running away? (Think of the toilet paper everyone is buying at the moment: do they need it, or are they buying it because everyone else is?) Logic and rational analysis should play a role here to inform any decisions.

To advance during a crisis, it is important to create a situation of risk asymmetry where you could lose only a little but potentially gain a lot:

  1. Protect your downside by looking at what costs can be cut, what revenue can be collected.
  2. Identify where your competitors are having an irrational deer-in-headlights moment
  3. Fight the instinct to retreat, consider the ‘what ifs’ of advancing

In crisis discussions with your teams, it may be helpful to start out envisioning a new normal in five years, zooming all the way out, before you zoom back in and tackle the next two weeks. Brainstorm your opportunities. Narrow in on three top ideas for turning this crisis into an advancement for you.

Lastly, don’t overlook the power of listening to your employee, who want your company to succeed and whose brain power can absolutely help you do just that.

Video Timestamps:

3:30 – What does it mean to have an agile approach to strategy? 

6:50 – As we take action, what do we look for to inform our next steps?

9:20 – In times of crisis do we retract and defend, or move forward?  

11:56 – What should companies seeking to advance during this crisis consider?  

15:15 – What tactics should I address with my teams? 

20:20 – How can Krippendorff’s book apply to this scenario?

About UnleasedWD's video series

At UnleashWD our purpose is to unleash the human spirit.  And during this unprecedented time we felt compelled to support the UnleashWD tribe and our association partners with the right mix of inspiration and timely, relevant information.  We reached out to our network of wickedly smart subject matter experts to provide the sessions below.  In the words of one attendee - “This was amazing.  You’ve changed our day tomorrow.  We’ll be on the attack!”

We are a design, innovation, and strategy firm who transforms legacy distributors into nimble and innovative market leaders.  What you are about to experience is designed to unleash your spirit so like the individual above decided, you too will be on the attack!

We are here to support you through these next few months and beyond.  If we can do anything for you please reach out directly to either of us.

Dirk Beveridge                      Bethany Hepler
Founder                                VP of Design
dirk@unleashwd.com           bethany@unleashwd.com