Leading Tech Teams Through Strategic Pivot

A strategic pivot can work wonders for your business. Look around! Industries are evolving more rapidly than ever. Practices are altering and so are the markets. There’s no way your business can survive this without changing itself.

Thus, to keep up with the competition. It has become common for tech and non-tech businesses to change their business model. This change can be in a product, business, and revenue model. Or, it can be in the aforementioned strategic pivot.

A Cursory Overview

As your business moves ahead from the startup phase. It’s likely to come across several new competitive threats and opportunities. The best to withstand such a situation is a strategic pivot. Don’t be alarmed. Revamping your business model and the underlying strategies is not an alien concept.  

Businesses undergo strategic pivots to ensure it remains profitable and viable among their competition. These pivots serve as a long-term strategy. It is true that your business may require additional funds to meet the new strategic shift. These funds could go into marketing, rebranding; or anything that adds muscle to your pivot.  

Popular Ventures that Underwent Pivot


Went from delivering DVDs to becoming the world’s biggest OTT streaming platform.


Went from Odeo, a podcast platform, to everyone’s favorite microblogging website.


Went from offering wall cleaning service to becoming every child’s favorite toy!


Went from making ramen, vacuum cleaners, and running hotels to ruling the gaming industry!

This confirms why strategic pivots aren’t all that bad. If the aforementioned companies hadn’t made strategic changes at the right time. They may not have survived at all.

Elaborating Further

Businesses undergo strategic pivots for plenty of reasons. Why was there a need for a strategic pivot for the ventures mentioned above? Let’s dive in!


In 2007, streaming televisual content had become more convenient than renting traditional DVDs. Seeing this as an opportunity, Netflix decided to drop the idea of mailing DVDs to their subscribers and went ‘digital’. Subscribers could watch their favorite TV shows, movies, and more for a monthly subscription fee. Of course, there had to be a high-speed internet connection in the mix as well.

Fast-forwarding to today. Netflix reaches approximately 220 million subscribers all over the world. Looks like the strategic pivot has worked out in the best way for our favorite OTT service.


Twitter began as Odeo in 2005. Odeo was a platform where users could access podcasts – kind of like Apple Podcasts. After the company reached its breakeven. Odeo underwent some serious strategic pivots and thus, Twitter was born. Twitter soon became the world’s favorite microblogging platform. People with political and social interests used Twitter to update what they were up to in real time.


Play-Doh originally entered the world in the 1930s as a boring, old wall cleaner known as Kutol. Imagine, every child’s favorite goo, was actually meant to remove coal soot from the walls. Soon, Kutol began experiencing a dip in its sales.

To counter this, the company started searching for another way to make money. Thus, they underwent a much-needed strategic pivot and released a new product as Play-Doh. Albeit the product wasn’t anything new in the market. But, what worked out for the company was their re-envisioning. Now Play-Doh rules every kid’s childhood. And looks like it’ll continue to thrive this way.


Nintendo is one of the global leaders that went through strategic pivot quite a few times. This brand has dabbled in a myriad of industries. They’ve tried their luck with ramen, vacuum cleaners, hotels, you name it! Gaming was another strategic pivot they tried. And luckily, it worked out for them. In the 80s, Nintendo led the market with their games Donkey Kong, and Mario Bros.

For Nintendo, stopping isn’t the answer. Even after their successful strategic pivot, which made them the leaders of the gaming realm. They are still adapting and capitalizing on new trends. Remember Nintendo Switch?

Story of an Unexpected Strategic Pivot – ETSY

Etsy, an e-commerce platform for craft buffs had to undergo a strategic pivot. The need for a pivot arose when Etsy launched a high-profile product. Unfortunately, the product failed and a 9-month waterfall build-out went in vain. It was time to rethink the whole approach.

Etsy thus announced a strategic pivot that their team had to implement within 3 months. According to Etsy’s engineering manager, Najla Elmachtoub. Employees that partook in the product launch had become immensely demoralized due to its failure. Therefore, this pivot seemed perfect to lift their spirits once again.

Of course, we’ll take you through how Etsy’s engineering manager turned the whole situation around with her team. First, let’s look at the pointers responsible persons must consider before putting their business through a strategic pivot.

  • Keeping in mind the opted approach, what’s the best way to move forward?
  • How to avoid recurring mistakes?
  • What complaints did the clients have in the last rollout?
  • What potential bottlenecks will your target audience likely cause?

Once you’ve jotted down these questions. It’ll become easier for your team to implement the strategic pivot. Now let’s go back to Najla Elmachtoub. And see how her team executed the strategic pivot.

The Turn-Around

The Initiation

For startups, product pivots are rather linear. You could say that it’s relatively easier for startups to scrape the changes. And steer the project in a whole new direction. Unlike seasoned ventures that must consider several things before commencing a pivot.

Anyways, pivoting back to Etsy’s pivot. It was a rapid strategic pivot. Therefore, the first step that made the most sense was to pause and reflect. Elmachtoub emphasized that her team carried out an in-depth analysis of the failure. Detailed sessions with the team members, and dissecting the loopholes had become a part of the daily routine. Doing this enabled Elmachtoub to tackle the situation better.

The Execution

For this phase, the Etsy team focused on holding tightly onto the regular processes, while making tweaks in areas where necessary. During the execution, Covid-19 had also struck so that was nonetheless another challenge to face. Of course, with the lockdown underway, the team had to work remotely for quite some time.

To keep up with the new normal, technical teams were assigned new strategies to maintain KPIs. However, this was no easy task and had its fair share of ‘huddles’. Team members had to check in with others repeatedly to ensure everybody was on the same page. As annoying as it may seem, being excessively communicative is the key here.

The Closure

This is where the launch of the strategic pivot takes place. Fortunately for the Etsy team, this pivot worked out quite impeccably. The team members stuck by. The ones that performed exceptionally received promotions. Moreover, the debt that had accrued due to the previous failure had almost cleared out.

Pivots may not work out for most. But for Etsy this one surely did. If you’re about to experience a situation like this at your workplace, or if you want to prepare in advance. Then we’d encourage you to add this to your reading list.

When Would You Need a Strategic Pivot?

Businesses often delude that strategic pivot is a magic spell that would solve everything. Failures would turn into guaranteed successes. And the business would end up thriving among its competitors. But, beware, strategic pivots only work when absolutely needed. Allow us to elaborate.

Strategic pivots go in when businesses are seeking a change in direction. Pivots essentially occur in business models. And, their correct implementation can turn a new leaf for struggling businesses. If you’re wondering what situations catalyze strategic pivots, then here you go. We’re jotting below some pointers that should give you a clear picture.

Incurring Market Saturation

Market saturation happens when there’s too much competition beginning to surface. Businesses usually incur saturation when their efforts don’t match their sales numbers. Thus, to stay ahead of the competition, businesses usually implement a well-thought-out strategic pivot in their product, platform of delivery, or entire business model.  

Your Team hitting a Plateau

Another reason to consider a strategic pivot is when your team has become unmotivated, or when the daily tasks have become too mundane. You don’t necessarily need a complete pivot here. But you should consider opting for a strategic or an objective pivot to focus on newer goals and challenges.

Often companies revamp their branding, campaigns, or objectives to bring out something fresh for their audience. This revamping often aligns with some new marketing efforts and creates a more unique target audience.

Seeking Traction in a Certain Business Area

While running an audit for your business to understand what strategy is working and what isn’t. There may be a need for radical change. Thus, businesses can go for strategic pivots targeted toward a certain area that results in better productivity, efficiency, and revenue.

Lack of Interest from the Audience

Regardless of extensive customer development, market research, and product gap analysis. You may still get a sluggish response from the market following the launch of your product. In this case, pre-marketing hype, public relations activities, and campaigns work the best. The right marketing can get your business the buzz needed for a strong sales follow-up.

Is Your Strategic Pivot Going to Yield Success?

You must abide by a few strategies to get your business through its survival phase. We’re jotting below a few pointers for you. These should help you implement the strategic pivot more effectively.

  • Pivot as early as possible. Don’t let the damage trickle too far.
  • Evaluate your mission. And, set a new long-term vision.
  • Save ideas that have failed. They are more valuable than you think.
  • Always seek customer feedback.
  • Align product pivots with growth opportunities.

To make your startup a success story. It’s best to prepare, analyze, evaluate, and adapt on the go. Through this planning, your risks would cause far less damage. And you’d get ample room to work towards plan B.

Be Mindful – Not Every Failure Should Result in a Strategic Pivot

Whenever your business is stuck in the doldrums. Don’t consider pivot as the ONLY solution that would salvage your business. Sometimes, early on in-depth research and identification of shortcomings might also cut it.

Thus, before your product or service is ready to hit the market. Try to leave no loophole behind that would, later on, morph into a goliath of problems. The following pointers should help you create a product/service that withstands the test of time (and competition).

Identify the Audience’s Pain Points

The market validation phase is critical for the success of your product launch. If the new product is not solving your audience’s pain points. You’re leaving a gap for someone else to steal.

It’s important to understand whether your product caters to the ‘intended’ audience. The only way to know this is through market validation and extensive research.

Focus on a Single Feature at a Time

Ever heard of less is more? Instead of rolling out various features at once. Approaching a single feature gives the audience a clear idea of what solution they’re getting out of it. Moreover, as a business, this practice would aid in effective decision-making. And, you’ll be able to enhance and make tweaks to your product/service to fit the needs of your audience in a better way.

Partner Up

As a startup, never hesitate to partner with the right software development company. Strategic pivots are expensive. Therefore, collaborating with a reliable software development firm will help you align your business values right from the get-go.

Collaborating with the right software company would not only get you development services. If you’re lucky, you may also get design-centric services. Alongside an in-depth overview of the discovery and market validation of your product.

Appreciate Your Team

Being responsible for the launch of a new product or a service can be daunting. Those who assist you during this process deserve appreciation. Therefore, get your project manager or a line manager in the loop. Encourage them to reflect on the workload of each member. And laud the employees that met their deadlines effectively, without giving in to pressure. Feel free to celebrate the little wins. This practice keeps the employees highly motivated. While keeping those episodes of burnout at bay.

Decide & Communicate Promptly

Always be ready to make decisions on the go. Whether it’s related to collaborating with the finance or marketing team, legal compliance, or the design team. Communicate your ideas and the changes that you expect to see without wasting any time. What would be the best practices to ensure this?

Daily checkups with project leads. Weekly check-ins with the executives. Remember, connecting with your team during every phase keeps everyone on the same page.

A strategic pivot can work great for businesses seeking a new life. Let’s not forget that not all businesses can bear the financial brunt of a pivot. Of course, you’re free to pivot whenever things are seemingly in your favor. Meanwhile, tread carefully and consider the aforementioned pointers before the launch.

Underlying Benefits of a Strategic Pivot – A Recap

Remember, when we talked about strategic pivots by some of the world’s renowned ventures? And what icons have they become now? This confirms that strategic pivots are impeccable at enabling businesses to turn over a new leaf and thrive in the market. In case you’re looking for a detailed overview of the benefits of pivots. Allow us to oblige.

Keeps the Wheel of Evolution Running

Businesses are evolving more rapidly than ever. Therefore, to keep up with the latest trends, consumer needs, and competition. Adapting to new practices always pays off.

Creates Opportunities for Revenue Expansion

When existing businesses undergo strategic pivots, they resort to carrying out in-depth research and market analysis. Data from previous practices, along with the reasons why the product failed. All of this enables businesses to zoom in on weak areas, and make tweaks. And unlock new areas that guarantee an outpour of revenue.  

Keeps the Business Relevant

With the ever-growing competition, the chances for your business to go obsolete will always lurk in the corner. Strategic pivots can work wonders in such situations. Your business gets to stay relevant and very much in demand.

Trying New Stuff Never Goes Outdated

You won’t really know what would work the best for your business unless you incur a bottleneck – be it big or small. Strategic pivots put businesses through new practices. At first, businesses may find this daunting. But, businesses surely do reap the benefits of pivots eventually.

Pivots Give Businesses a New Life

And finally, if your business is beginning to look lifeless. You can breathe a new life into it with the help of strategic pivots. This way becoming outdated among the competition. And losing importance in front of the competition. All of this becomes easy to overcome once there’s a well-thought-out pivot in place.

Our Final Thoughts

Now that we’ve given you an extensive overview of the strategic pivot. It’s time for you to figure out when is the right time to put your business through it. Understanding why you’re going for this pivot, what aspects are necessary, and the areas that require the most focus. All these factors ensure a successful implementation.

Most importantly, before you put yourself through any pivot. Prepare yourself for the changes, and be ready to adapt. No matter how daunting the situation becomes, don’t lose your calm and keep your team together.

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Inamullah Khan
Key Contributor:
Inamullah Khan

Lead Product Owner
Inam aims to provide maximum value to customers by leading product development with proficiencies in industry-relevant methods & processes.
Edited by Tissam Khan – Putting spellchecks behind bars, and producing tech-centered content from the Bat Cave read: home