Now that we are a few weeks into this global corona crisis. Most organisations have found a way to deal with the operational challenges it comes with. I hope that leaders in organisations that are economically affected by this corona crisis, are shifting their focus. Strategising what will happen after this lockdown or other restrictions are lifted. I believe that it’s not an option to return to business as usual. If you are a leader, you should not be micromanaging the current crisis. Your employees know very well what can or cannot be done at this moment. Do not feel the temptation to invest a lot of your time and energy in optimising your business for the short term. Shift your focus towards the long term and how to restart your business.
Necessary actions are taken
The longer this crisis and the restrictions are upheld. The more likely we have to fundamentally rethink how to run our organisations. It would be naive to think we could just pick up where we left off.
Maybe in the last couple of weeks you and your organisation have restructured your processes to be able to deliver the best possible value to your customers. Many organisations have decided to let their flexible workforce go, cancel training courses and stop all non essential investments. These are relatively easy and logical actions taken to create room to breathe on the short term. And because the economy is in low output mode, the remainder of the workforce can deal with the remaining work at hand.
Once restrictions are lifted, you customers won’t automatically return. You probably don’t have the funds or work to hire new employees. Or make too many investments. I would expect leadership teams are already thinking about what can be done to restart their organisations. Think about what will likely happen. Which approach might help and how this situation can be used to rethink their current method of operation. If not? Keep reading!
Before the corona crisis
Since the industrial revolution, we have been trying to optimise our value creation processes. We have created an impressive number of ways to govern it. The variables below used to be extremely influential in determining how successful we are able to do this.
Those who were able to control and utilise the three primary factors (resources, labour and capital) were successful. Large corporations dominating the markets because competitors are unable to obtain the natural, monetary and labor resources. To maximise these rewards we adopted numerous ways to optimise them.
When the restrictions to manage the spread of the coronavirus will be lifted. The scarcity of resources will not have changed. Maybe the oil prices are lower at this moment, but they will eventually rise again quickly. Organisations have probably used a significant amount of their financial reserves to prevent them from going out of business. They might not have the funds to (re)hire the flexible workforce they have let go. Organisations will resume their operations with less capabilities than they used to have. That might feel like a disadvantage. But in fact it’s an opportunity to do ‘things differently’, be more effectively with less.
When these three primary factors are scarce, the entrepreneurial abilities of an organisation can make the difference.
The ability to optimise the utilisation of the production factors is entrepreneurship. This involves five elements:
- Taking initiative – Action oriented and driven by forward motion
- Strategic business decision making – Based on a clear vision and strategy being able to make decisions
- Innovation – Exploring and experimenting
- Bearing risk – taking the consequences of the previous three elements regardless the outcome.
Focus on maximising outcome!
The last couple of months, I have been working with my clients to focus more on maximising outcome delivered. Many organisations tend to focus primarily on maximising the output. Being extremely efficient to deliver an assumed outcome. If there is no crisis at hand, you might get away with this. However, in a couple of weeks or months from now (who knows when). You will be restarting your business. Probably with fewer people available and with limited (financial) resources. The worst thing you could do is resume to the state before the corona crisis. Following the same procedures etc. I predict the outcome will be significantly lower.
The restart of your business will provide you with the opportunity to rethink your modus operandi. How you can maximise the outcome with the capabilities you currently have. And the only thing you have to do is to involve your employees and tap into their entrepreneurial abilities.
Inspect and Adapt
As a leader, you will have to set clear goals (outcome or even impact) and clear boundaries. Also, you might want to adopt an empirical approach to inspect and adapt. To navigate uncertainty (maybe you are have been using frameworks that assist you on that). This way you can reinvent your organisation in small iterations. Rethink all the things you used to do if these is necessary (procedures, protocols, documentation, sign-offs etc). Do these actions add value to your customers? Or can you achieve the same results with a different approach. Give your employees the freedom to change things without compromising on quality or safety. Most organisations have been practicing this approach for the last couple of years. For example, adopting the Scrum Framework or attempting to ‘transition’ towards more agility.
The time will come to really put all these investments into practice. We will be facing a time with a lot of uncertainty. So, the only way to deal with that is to set up your organisation to frequently inspect and adapt the value it delivered. And how to get better at doing this with the limited resources available.
If you are a leader, you should not be micromanaging the current corona crisis. Your employees know very well what can or cannot be done at this moment. Do not feel the temptation to invest a lot of your time and energy in optimising your business for the short term. Shift your focus towards the long term and how to restart your business.