There have been numerous articles published recently about managing through the current crisis: how to work remotely, accessing government assistance, health tips and the like.
But considering the present circumstances and even the recent past give us great insights into what lies ahead…and preparing for the future is just as critical.
It is generally accepted that caring for our people must be the most urgent and understanding and managing cash flow comes a close second.
The former requires managers to exert even greater energies on regular contact. At least 15-minutes each week with each direct report is imperative – now more than ever. Weekly team huddles may now have to be daily – morning check-ins and evening check-outs is what we recommend for both wellness and effectiveness.
In times of crisis, rituals and routines bring teams together and strengthens bonds. Leaders must provide hope, assurance, courage and, most importantly, clarity.
Overcoming the Execution Gap
In our experience, the execution gap is best addressed through what we call ‘sprint cycles’. Whilst we normally recommend 13-weeks, perhaps 4-week cycles are far more appropriate now. What should we accomplish? Has everyone got appropriate information? Have they been empowered to execute? What’s the team scoreboard look like (qualitative and quantitative)?
Mistakes are a given when negotiating uncharted waters – it is at these times that everyone must be open to engagement, trust, vulnerability, humility and compassion to get through.
Cash is Critical
Cash is critical and ensuring there is enough to get through the next three or even six months is fundamental – anything less may leave the organisation vulnerable or even insolvent.
Get in front of the curve.
Leaving aside these two urgent duties, a manager must seriously consider the future with the knowledge already available and seek to gain insights and find patterns from emerging trends. The frontline staff, must always be feeding information up – especially now. Engage with customers and non-customers.
What we know for certain is that people’s behaviours will be forever changed from this experience – understanding which ones and how – is the key.
Luft and Ingham’s epistemology about the knowns vs unknowns when used in the Johari Window format may well be a good starting point. A similar mindset used for understanding new and existing products/services vs new and existing customers/markets is strongly recommended.
What do we mean by all of this?
A New World Order
Put simply, when the world comes out of self-isolation what will the customer need and want?
Wants and Needs
Many needs before the epidemic will most certainly be wants. Disposable income will be at historic lows. Affordability will mean the same product or service will have to be cheaper.
Organisations that wish to continue in the same industry will have to turn their singular attention to efficiency and productivity. The bottom of the pyramid paradigm so well articulated by my late, great compatriot CK Prahalad is something worth considering for such companies.
The Answers Have Changed
For many, however, the new reality is that the answers have changed. They have to consider the following from a much different perspective than before:
• Who is my customer?
• Is s/he going to buy more or less of my product/service?
• Will service levels and quality have to be improved to satisfy them now?
• How will they buy the product/service?
• How will they consume it?
• How will they pay for it?
Supply & Demand Chains
A further consideration is the supply chain and demand chain. We have already seen short term shifts in these areas. To be clear, what we have witnessed are simply hiccups compared to what lies ahead.
Certain supply chains have already deteriorated to levels that will have medium-term if not long-term consequences. Demand chains have not been given the attention they deserve. They too have changed significantly along with buyer behaviour. Logistics will be one of the great growth sectors.
The Catalyst Effect
In many ways the current crisis has proven to be a catalyst to industries and sectors already precariously teetering on the brink.
For examples consider:
• the recent down-turn in restaurant trade due to the rise in popularity of home delivery;
• the steady shift away from free-to-air television to on-demand streaming;
• the slow but consistent decline in attendance numbers for sport across the globe as well as the growing appetite for shorter highlights clips on social media compared to the long-standing committed viewership of entire games;
• the unaffordable rise in lease costs at shopping centres when online purchasing has increased year-on-year;
• the capital and real-estate burdened motor vehicle retail sector;
• the unjustifiable cost of campus-centred tertiary institutions (and even some distance learning) when compared the to actual cost of education (perhaps studying and working in parallel rather than sequentially);
• City-centric commercial/office leasing, Aged care, Travel…
The list is endless!
If current home detention requirements continue for the medium term, new behaviours will be learned, many permanently. When the vast majority of the civilised world is forced into isolation, they learn to adapt and often adopt new ways of living and doing things.
Primary and secondary education is clearly due for a shift – either homeschooling or greater reliance on the public system.
It would be dangerous if we were to ignore these trends and throw good money and resources after bad. Worse, if government and related institutions artificially prop them up.
Hope and Opportunity
All of these trends do not necessarily indicate doom and gloom. On the contrary they lead to new opportunities. New ways of thinking and fertile ground for first movers.
This crisis has further shrunk the world and possibly flattened it. Emerging economies and nations are likely to have a greater advantage.
Even in sub-sections of first-world societies there will be a new levelling – where many former powerful and wealthy will have to start from scratch. Start-up, again!
Capital and Knowledge
Prior to the crisis we also witnessed a seismic shift in the ‘scarce resources’ framework. Capital and knowledge (IP) until recently were scarce commodities. This has not been the case of late.
Knowledge (IP) has been gaining value the more it is shared as opposed to being protected. Open source, collaboration, open innovation have all confirmed this.
The cost of money has been approaching zero and in some instances, below zero. We were fast approaching, if we already had not, reached a point where uninvested funds were beginning to incur costs.
These two forces point to a time, perhaps the first, in history where innovation and entrepreneurship will be the advantage. Creativity, agility and speed will be decide who leads.
Digital Transformation, Disruption and the environment
This virus has been the greatest force for global digital transformation and disruption. It may well have implications for cleaner processes of value creation and a reduced toll on the environment – simply because it’s cheaper and more efficient to do so.
So what next?
We use a performance paradigm alluded to earlier in this article based on knowledge, control and execution. Firstly, we need to work with what we know and use intelligence to fill as many voids in the unknowns. We will need to get closer to the coal-face to understand the customers and the non-customers in order to keep the former and attract the latter.
We need to answer fundamental questions such as what are the new gaps to be filled, the new pains to be alleviated and the new jobs to be done.
Control the controllables! Whilst it may seem daunting, a disruption does not mean free-fall. All is not lost. There are far more controllables than initially evident.
We need to work with distilled intelligence and scope of control. But we must also execute. We do not have three-months to strategise. Clarify purpose instead. Maybe it’s time to re-purpose the organisation, or a part of it. Flatten the organisation and empower the executive. Increase communication frequency and decrease noise. Set sprint cycles, designate ownership and constantly watch the scoreboard for what is done and how.
If you need assistance with this, we’d love to be involved…
To achieve this we must raise our gaze, rely on each other and be hopeful.
There is no better way to close than in the words of the late Reinhold Niebuhr:
God, give me grace to accept the things that cannot be changed;
Courage to change the things which should; and the Wisdom to know the difference.