Pull back to launch forward: Harnessing the power of pause in business planning

“Bring it on!”

That’s normally how I respond to change: I embrace it, full steam ahead. This year, though, has been a bit different.

Like so many of us, I’ve found myself overwhelmed by fear-inducing headlines and the constant, unrelenting pace of new information, new ways of existing, and urges to “accelerate.”

This “new normal,” digital acceleration, our “brave new world,” the great recession: no one phrase is menacing on its own, but thrown on top of each other, over the span of a few months… it’s a bit much.

Here at Twilio, we’re as much a part of it as anyone: we tout the benefits of our ability to rapidly scale and how we’re built for speed, and that’s usually a very good thing.

But sometimes, it isn’t.

Some of us have had the opportunity to adjust, to shape our home and work lives in a different way, but there’s one group who seem to be forgotten: our business leaders: those people who have worked so hard to make sure staff are safe, created new processes and procedures out of nothing, enabled new ways of working by ramping up technology and keeping the whole thing moving, all while juggling the same stresses we all have, around work-from-home, home-schooling—home-everything’ing.

These same people face even bigger challenges now, like staff cutbacks, budget restructuring, and entire business roadmap shifts, all while trying to keep things afloat.

And, on top of it all, we’re all by now aware of the rapid, unrelenting pace of digital acceleration that is now a precedent. The pressure can be suffocating.

What I’ve heard, from so many business leaders, is that this pace and approach—while inspiring and necessary—is also exhausting and unsustainable.

Recently, on a scheduled video call, I noticed my client seemed especially frazzled. I asked if they’d like to take the time we had set aside to just get some air, make a tea, or just sit and think—or perhaps not think, for once.

I invited them to pause.

It can feel impossible to do when you feel like you’re in the middle of a raging storm, but hitting pause is a powerful practice both personally and professionally.

In stressful situations, you lock down into survival mode: it’s flight or fight, and that’s no place for creativity to live.

Anyone under unrelenting stress knows it’s incredibly difficult to see the big picture, or to prioritize based on it, when you can barely see the forest for the trees.

And if there is anything business leaders need to be doing right now, it’s 1. Being creative, 2. Seeing the big picture and thinking ahead, and 3. Prioritizing accordingly.

From a business perspective, there’s another good reason to pause: it gives you a chance to reevaluate your customers needs and expectations, because they’ve undoubtedly changed. Their circumstances, too, are likely different than they were just a few months ago.

Pausing and reflecting gives you as a leader and your organization as a whole the opportunity to relearn about your customers and what you need.

It lets you evaluate your new budget in light of these priorities, so you aren’t spending money or time on features you don’t even need anymore.

And most of all, it lets you be responsive on a human level—and that’s what will deepen relationships and trust with your customers and employees alike.

In a time and age when everyone’s asking, how are you moving forward? What’s the next big thing? How are you preparing? Why haven’t you done this or that yet? Taking a moment to pause, to talk to customers, and to reconnect with staff is the competitive advantage.

It will inform your business strategy, and foster stronger relationships and connections that will outlast any pandemic.

Giving people advice about how to do better, move faster, build the next best thing… It’s like telling an upset person to just calm down. At Twilio Foundry, we aren’t doing that. We’re asking customers to instead focus on the power that lies in simply taking a moment, or a few moments, to ask, “What now?”

At Foundry, we partner with companies to create strategic, groundbreaking solutions for communications excellence and industry-leading customer engagement.

We’re here to listen. Have you recently taken a step back to embrace the power of pause in your business planning? Tell us about it at [email protected].