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How to Pivot Strategy in Uncertain Times

Posted by Cheri Kuhn on
How to Pivot Strategy in Uncertain Times

Many business owners and leaders feel the need to completely rewrite their playbook during troubling times. There is no better example than this than during the pandemic. Can you refocus your plan if priorities or situations change without needing to start from square one? Do you have an action plan template that allows you to adapt to market changes?

In the book Great by Choice by Jim Collins and Morten Hansen, the authors discuss a concept they dubbed a SMaC recipe. SMaC is an acronym for Specific, Methodical and Consistent. Great, you say, just another acronym - hear us out. Great companies have and adhere to them with very little change over time.

Southwest Airlines has used a a SMaC recipe, developed by former CEO, Jim Putman, for over 20 years. When done right, these “recipes” can help guide companies through the most difficult challenges. Southwest adheres to the following SMaC recipe:

  1. Remain a short-haul carrier, under two-hour segments.
  2. Utilize the 737 as our primary aircraft for ten to twelve years.
  3. Continued high aircraft utilization and quick turns, ten minutes in most cases.
  4. The passenger is our #1 product. Do not carry air freight or mail.
  5. Stay out of food services.
  6. No interlining.
  7. Keep it simple. Continue cash-register tickets, free coffee and donuts in the boarding area, no seat selection on board, tape-recorded passenger manifest, bring airplanes and crews home to Dallas each night, only one domicile and maintenance facility.

While this list did evolve slightly over time, it remained largely the same for several decades. Staying true to these components allowed Southwest Airlines to respond appropriately despite disruptive events like industry mergers, air-traffic control strikes, deregulation, the Internet and 9/11.

Call it whatever you choose, but a SMaC recipe is a set of planning tools that allows you to respond with fine tune adjustments rather than sweeping changes. If you do this well, your company will come out stronger on the other side and ahead of your competitors.

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