We're in the thick of an unprecedented crisis that likely won’t go away in the short term. How to respond to it in an effective way?
On March 12th, the Netherlands imposed a so-called intelligent lockdown. Even if some doors might open in May, it looks like we'll have to deal with crisis measures for a longer period of time. This means you need a serious plan of action if you want your business to keep running. How to go about it?
Time to adapt to the new reality
We believe the handling of this crisis consists of 3 stages. The first, which has been in full swing over the past three weeks, is stabilizing your business: you’ve taken measures to protect employees, manage for cash, stabilize your supply chain, and communicate frequently with your staff, customers, and relevant government agencies. But now what?
It's time to enter stage 2: you'll need to go from reactive to proactive crisis management and adapt your business to our new, short-term reality. How? Use these 4 tips!
1. Get out of crisis mode
Start by drafting plans for the coming months, determining what triggers should prompt which actions. Without such plans, every new event – big or small – will be handled as the next crisis. What if supplier A can’t deliver the goods, or you just lost customer B? You’ll be racking your brains over what to do time and again. Instead of getting ahead of the situation, you will perpetually be trying to catch up.
In addition, people get ‘over-sensitive’ to crisis events and may respond to smaller problems in the same crisis mode. That is dangerous: although decisive, crisis mode isn’t the right mindset for achieving the best solution. Also, if you allow day-to-day issues to feed the ‘crisis machine,’ you will never get out of crisis mode.
Outlining scenarios allows you to act proactively and get out of crisis mode, creating headspace to continue managing the company in the longer term. So prepare a response to likely events. Just lost supplier A? Be sure you can say something along the lines of, “Let’s move to alternative supplier C and use our stock to manage the transition.”
You need to realize it’s difficult to get out of crisis mode. Some people thrive in this mindset – being in the thick of the action, taking rapid decisions, and saving the day are in sharp contrast to the structured way of working people are used to. At a subconscious level, they may prefer crisis mode over the relative boredom of normality. In some way, they might find it exciting.
As you can see, it's important to work with scenarios. They help you respond faster to these ever-changing circumstances, avoid making rash heat-of-the-moment decisions, and create time to think before you act in the longer term so you can get ahead of the competition.
2. Use freed-up time wisely and review your project portfolio
Let's face the facts: part of your organization is set up to run projects, so if you halt all project activity, you'll start losing employees. Furthermore, additional resources might be available as they’ve been freed up from primary processes. If part of your staff have more time on their hands, is there an interesting project they can work on?
It's paramount that you start by reviewing your current project portfolio. Some projects, such as temporary capacity increases, might be irrelevant at the moment, while others, such as developing online customer training courses, likely deserve your attention.
Additionally, this might be the perfect time to pay off an organizational debt: if you've never been able to put in the hours required to train your employees, improve processes, or document systems, use the coming weeks or months to do so.
Finally, ceased operations come with specific opportunities: if you’ve postponed impactful maintenance or a reorganization of your factory or warehouse to avoid downtime, now is the time to take up these matters, so you’ll be better prepared for the post-COVID 19 era.
3. Launch corona-specific propositions
Car manufacturers have been among the first to respond to the needs triggered by the crisis: many of them currently use their equipment to produce ventilators, one of the most in-demand products of the moment. If you don't have the means to provide medical equipment, you can come up with other ideas. A Chinese retailer, for example, organized a massive online event so customers could get one-on-one advice from cosmetics experts. And a man in the Dutch city of Deurne invented a car wash for shopping carts that can support grocery stores' hygiene efforts.
So, how about devising a creative solution for the 1.5-meter distance rule in public spaces, or luxury home products that help people get through their usual night out? After all, it will likely take some time before we’ll have those again.
4. Continue to invest in your people
Are you cutting bonuses for management? It might not be the best idea. In these difficult times, you need employees to stay motivated – after all, they are the people who will guide you through the crisis. When the business ball starts rolling again, you can't do without your star players.
So make sure you keep everyone on board. In addition, you should continue to attract talent. And don't forget to communicate about your measures and decision-making with everyone involved. Now more than ever, it's important to stay connected.
What comes after stage 2? Well, at some point, you'll need to rebalance your business so it can cope with the new normal after COVID-19. That's stage 3, which consists of 3 steps: work to understand the post-crisis market, plan for recovery early, and prepare for the next crisis by building more resilience. We'll tell you all about stage 3 in one of our next blogs!