In the midst of a pandemic, a business can only triage and manage what’s necessary to survive. Many entrepreneurial companies are already accustomed to operating this way. The “fly by the seat of your pants” makes for a nimble response. However, this strength is also why they are especially vulnerable. They sometimes lack the foresight to plan ahead and set up strategies and infrastructure--not just for the long-term, but for the “what ifs.” Without some discipline of this persuasion, an entrepreneurial company can be caught unprepared to rise to a challenge, no matter how scrappy they might be. Now is the time for companies to begin preparing for the next global crisis, however it might present itself. Here’s a checklist of 5 To Do’s to get started, some of which may be surprising.
1. Culture the culture. This is the first thing to focus on, or nothing else will ever fully work. A company culture devolving toward toxicity could actually derail a business, either by a thousand tiny cuts or in one big devasting blow up. In contrast, culture can be a big differentiator, the asset that elevates an organization and accelerates business results. Culture is both pervasive and essential—it is in every part of an organization and determines how work is done. It is what bonds or divides employees, the very ones that need to be aligned, coordinated, and managed toward a common cause. Culture Your Culture: Innovating Experiences @ Work explains Design of Work Experience (DOWE), the comprehensive step-by-step “how to” for company culture and employee experience. DOWE facilitates the design, implementation, and sustainability. Begin or renew efforts to intentionally manage the company’s culture as a business asset.
2. Optimize Talent. A crisis forces the need to acquire, develop and leverage organizational capabilities in unprecedented ways. These are the things a company does well that have genuine business impact. Sadly, in the effort to cut costs, many companies have already laid off top talent—who, as an entire group, might represent the shedding of a business’ core competencies if they haven’t been strategic about it. This doesn’t serve a company’s viability in the long-term. At this moment, organizations should be taking stock of their core capabilities and whether/how that differs from what their business needs to be competitive. The next step is two pronged: a) determine whether to hire, develop, or outsource each specific capability gap, and b) ensure remaining in-house talent remains evergreen with learning and development. Working from home is actually conducive to the latter—replace canceled initiatives and projects with capability building and learning opportunities. These need not be expensive.
3. Truly prepare on a continuous basis. Preparedness is not an end result, but an ongoing constant state that must be maintained. What to prepare depends on the specific company, but may address topics such as:
For some organizations, the preparation begins with the current crisis. Leaders at JLL Corporate Solutions business recently mapped out their COVID-19 Corporate Journey which leads to what they call “the next normal.”
4. Recession proof the business. The terminology here is intended as a verb. A company must know what it will take to minimize the negative effects of a recession and perhaps even thrive in the midst of one. Doing this requires thinking outside the quarter-to-quarter mentality, and even looking beyond the tenure of individual leaders. Strategies might include shoring up product pipelines, securing cash reserves (and other liquid assets) at the ready, cultivating multiple/alternate revenue streams, nurturing potential partnerships, etc.
5. Innovate. To do this, two things need to happen. Acquire the know-how to innovate (as an organizational capability) and actually deliver innovation with impact. The capability to innovate comes with other cultural benefits: creativity, flexibility in mind and action, resiliency when it comes to change, and learning agility. All are really helpful when it comes to dealing with business threats. Most companies don’t really want to innovate for innovation’s sake and fall into the “before their time” trap. Innovation without adoption doesn’t actually build business or change the world. Being able to innovate out of a pandemic, for example, is a company’s path to remaining both sustainable and relevant.
The bottom line is this: it’s not the time to scale down activities and wait for the crisis to pass, this is the time to prepare. If a business can manage to survive this one, make sure it doesn’t fall short for the next crisis. Or there won’t be a next time.
This article also appears on Forbes
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