Yep, someone pushed “RESET”.
The coronavirus has brought the world to a crashing halt. It’s in shut down.
Every one of our businesses has been profoundly impacted by this pandemic. We have all struggled in one way or another. As we look ahead to recovery, struggle must transform into strategy.
In my first article, I outlined 5 markers to help navigate the road to recovery. Five markers that chart a leader’s task as the journey progresses–if we are to thrive, not just survive.
My 5 Markers:
- Communities temporarily settled, uneasy calm.
- Restrictions start to lift.
- Business tries to restart.
- Business pace accelerates.
- ‘New normal’.
Each signals a crucial milestone to help us work out the right questions to ask, at the right time, informing right actions–to thrive on the other side. Preparation and timing is important if we are to maximise the enormous opportunity waiting on the other side. The risk is being either too early or too late.
The journey extends well beyond the health pandemic crisis. Critically it includes the aftermath–an economic ‘tsunami’.
Where have we been so far?
We’ve come through the horrible disaster response period. It didn’t matter whether our business had to scale down, up, pivot or close. We’ve experienced the roller coaster ride of shock, confusion, disbelief, denial, anxiety and stress that comes with the disaster of a global pandemic.
Where are we now?
Significant change this week
Thankfully, over the past week, the news has changed significantly.
The infection curve is flattening across the globe (at least for the moment). Media coverage has shifted focus to the debate over what a ‘flattening of the curve’ means for restrictions: when they will lift and how a roll back will be managed.
Today in Australia, the Prime Minister announced the country has turned a corner and is now on the road to recovery. Restrictions on elective surgery and beach access are being relaxed. Students will be phased back into school in New South Wales from 11 May.
So, have we passed the first marker: temporarily settled, uneasy calm?
Yes, I think we clearly have.
Globally and locally, the signs indicate that communities are now largely settled into the temporary changes resulting from social distancing and stay at home restrictions. New rules are understood. New routines are established. Working from home is sorted. Others at home with no work, but keeping busy. Home schooling kids is sorted (though remains a frustration for most).
Overall, the situation feels steady and stable (perhaps with the exception of places like UK, Sweden and Singapore).
Everyone is taking the opportunity to catch a breath.
But, this ‘calm’ is a false calm. The ‘calm’ before the brewing economic ‘storm’.
Around the world, everyone is acutely aware of the COVID-19 reality. Everyone is starting to wonder and many growing impatient. We want to know when things will change back to ‘normal’. Frustration, anger and anxiety are replacing shock, fear and denial.
I believe we have PASSED THE FIRST MARKER. We are temporarily settled with an uneasy calm, in Australia and across the world.
So, what should we be doing now?
Action: Watch and listen.
This is the ‘calm’ before an economic ‘tsunami’.
I’m staying alert and informed, tracking progress and assessing impact to make short term decisions for my family and business. At the same time, I’m on the lookout for signs of the second marker, with an eye on the medium and longer term.
Action: Support the team.
As each week under restrictions passes, the importance of consistent emotional and psychological support seems to grow. Losing patience, going ‘stir-crazy’, losing confidence and growing anxiety have been some of the concerns.
I’m doing my best to stay clear minded, calm in the face of continued uncertainty and meaningfully supportive and connected with my people. I’ve found providing calm reassurance, encouragement to focus on the positives and collaborating on constructive activities has helped.
Action: Leg work and preparation. Get my ‘house’ in order.
It’s important to be prepared to act quickly and execute plans as the main tide turns. Tactically urgent and important in the short-term, we prepared for a re-opening the business in two steps, creating a draft Action Plan and assigned personnel.
First, assess the current situation and status of the business resulting from the coronavirus restrictions. Where are we at as a business right now? How ready are we to re-open
Second, prepare tactically. What are the key tasks we will need to action when relevant restrictions lift and the business can properly open its doors again–albeit to a ‘new normal’. Given current uncertainty, what flexibility might be required to adjust for new circumstances as they unfold?
Importantly, completing this step allowed us to clear our minds to think creatively about the future.
Action: Start exploring potential futures, new scenarios and strategic options for my business.
What is our great opportunity in the midst of this great challenge?
If there was ever a time I wished for a chance to change things, or felt the frustration of not being able to, then this is as good a moment as I will ever get.
The team and I continue to invest serious time in considering where our business could be, how we can be better, the potential opportunities and what we want our business to look like ‘on the other side’ of the crisis.
In summary, this was our approach.
- Created a “Great Big Ideas List”.
- Consolidated the Great Big Ideas List into themes and statements of customer value.
- Refined into a short-list of the most meaningful options.
- Clarified our assumptions.
Creating a “Great Big Ideas List”.
The goal was to come up with as big a list as possible. No good or bad, right or wrong. Just looking for as many thoughts as possible.
To create this list, we worked through 5 perspectives to open up and challenge our thinking. We didn’t stress about any overlap. After every step, we added every idea or concept to the Great Big Ideas List.
- ‘Open slather’ brainstorming. No constraints, no limitations. If anything was possible–what would we love to change about the business?
- Reflecting back on the business, pre-COVID-19. What was good, not so good? What to keep the same, do differently?
- Imagining the long-term future. What might businesses and our industry look like in 10 years’ time?
- Assessing the business, both in a pre-COVID-19 world, then reflected in a post-COVID-19 world. Customer value, strengths, shortcomings, success factors.
- Imagining the post-COVID-19 ‘new reality’. What are all the ways it might impact the big picture we operate in? How might it impact our marketplace or industry? What might the changes look like?
Consolidating the Great Big Ideas List.
We consolidated the list by combining similar ideas into one, then grouping into themes. We discard any points deemed unrealistic by consensus. We then had robust discussion on how each theme or big idea could be turned into a strategy for the business to thrive.
We used two helpful tools: SWOT (cross matching opportunities and threats with corresponding strengths and weaknesses) and Customer value statements (turn each theme into a statement of customer value).
Refine into a short-list.
To create a short list, we assessed each on the basis of our ability to add strong value to our target customers, cross referencing with our belief that we could be super competitive executing that option in the post-COVID-19 marketplace.
Importantly, as the system is still shutting down, there is still much uncertainty concerning the full extent of the economic fallout. Clear assumptions helps us know how to refine our plans as the situation unfolds and more becomes known.
Action: Broad planning and testing ideas and early steps.
We are still pulling together our high level plans, particularly thinking of ways we can start testing our short-list ideas with existing and target customers. This is a reality check.
What do I do when the world as I knew it is changed forever? Out of adversity–with purpose and determination–leaders rise to find a path to a better way.
So, what now?
- If I could change anything about my business, what would it be?
- What are all the different options I could consider to turbo boost my business, no matter how crazy some of them might sound?
- What could the mission and vision for my business be on the other side of the crisis?
Further action on some resources:
- My original article on LinkedIn here.
- Resources – If you would like the extended version of this article with more detailed on the processes and with prompting, provocative questions to get you thinking, please let me know in the comments. Also go to the Resources Page for templates and checklists we developed for our business and our clients, such as: a post-COVID-19 Change Impacts List, SWOT analysis and more. No charge. No sign up.
- Feedback – please let me know your thoughts. Please leave a comment below.
- Follow – if you would like to continue following me through this journey, please make sure you follow Leadership Resources Company Page or click through to Contact Us and leave your contact details.
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Michael Lin is Lead Consultant at Leadership Resources Consulting Group.