Are you ready for the new normal, or are you waiting for the return of the old normal? Take a few minutes to read the 4-steps guide of winning amid a crisis
When it comes to leading with confidence during a crisis, do not get ready. Stay ready. There is just no time for preparation. The #covid19 pandemic just happened. Not one company or country predicted it. Many companies were caught unawares. Not everyone has been badly hit. Some companies have registered the highest growth since the outbreak. Many technology companies and entrepreneurs are thriving. The pandemic has leapfrogged many parts of the world into technology, early adopters. Virtual meetings, that were seen as an unnecessary cost, have become the order of the day. Not everyone had prepared for the new normal. Yet winners stay ready. They do not get ready.
Six months ago, during a business trip to Nairobi Kenya, we experienced an incident that brought to the fore the importance of preparedness. From the airport, Paul, our driver, dropped us at the bungalow that had been arranged for our two months stay in the exquisite Westlands, Nairobi neighbourhood at 10 pm in the night. “I’ll be here tomorrow at 7 am to pick you”, said Paul before he left.
When you travel for more than two months to a foreign city, renting an apartment or bungalow is always the best. Our bungalow was enclosed in a perimeter wall and guarded by a night watchman and a guard dog. We felt secure. Inside the bungalow was a CCTV screen showing around the whole place. We felt in control. In the morning, after our first night, the security guard introduced greeted us. And told us some ground rules – once in the house, never get out even if you see me being taken. If you hear the dog bark, check the security camera. If the dog barks and you think it has gone outside of the gate, call the police. Whatever happens, never get out of the house at night, even if I tell you so. Follow my rules, and you will be protected.
Now for long, we had been told about Nairobery, but it never got so real like this briefing. Anyway, we thought the Kenyan people take their jobs seriously. We laughed it off. And we reported for our work in Nairobi’s central business district. When we travel out for cybersecurity work, we are always alert. Many times, we cannot even go out to enjoy the rich Nairobi night light.
Four days in Westlands and a surprise happened. In the dead of the night, we awoke to a deafening noise outside, down the street in the opposite direction. It sounded like dogs and humans were on the loose. We wanted to rush outside but remembered the briefing by the security guard on our first day. He was clear: whatever happens, never get outside of the house. We rushed to the CCTV display screen. As we fidgeted replaying the footage, the noises got louder and then, heard curfew as if people were fighting. The dog was barking intensely, and suddenly got silenced. We stood still. As my colleague was looking at the CCTV footage, I slowly walked to the edge of the room glass window to check what was outside. All I could see was the perimeter wall fence. I noticed the small gate on the main gate slightly ajar. It appeared the curfew was just in front of our house gate.
I called the guard’s mobile phone but got no response. I called the CEO of our host company and got no response as well. My palms were sweating. I sat back on the bed and waited. I literally heard my heartbeat. I placed my hands on the chest as a last attempt to keep it inside. I waited for the noises to reduce before I went back to bed and deliberately closed my eyes, to force sleep. My colleague joined me: so many people outside. It seems we are in big trouble.
“But what has this got to do with COVID-19? Or a pandemic for that matter”
“How does this relate to business?”
Good question. Read on.
The next morning, we got out of bed at 5 am and readied ourselves for the day. By 7:30 am, we went outside and asked the guard what happened.
“I survived”, he said while standing and walking towards us. “Good, you remained inside. Four men, four men came to rob. But they found us ready”.
“What happened,” we asked.
“A thief had climbed over the wall fence to access the inside, leaving his colleague outside” “They were armed. Then the dog barked and ran towards him. Using a rope held by his accomplice outside the fence he climbed back, and they tried to flee”.
“I opened the small gate, and the dog ran after them. But one had remained close to the wall. He grabbed me. The dog continued chasing after the other thieves”.
But we have our security guards WhatsApp group. Once you hear a dog bark outside of the gate, we all respond. So, they all got out and came to my gate. They saw me wrestling the thief and was put down easily. Also, before opening the gate “I had already gotten out my phone and texted to our village “security alert” Whatsapp group that intruders were on house plot. 328 on Nyambura close”
“In an attack of this nature, we have a policy. All the security guards and guard dogs of the two neighboring plots on both sides of the plot, come to jointly respond to the attack. They all came, and we apprehended both before the police came and took them away” he said with a smile oblivious of the huge risk he took.
That is a great team of friends, man. Next time do not just cross the enemy lines that quick. But nothing beats a prepared man. These guards are well organized. They are coordinated. They trust each other. They communicate.
As business leaders, how prepared are you for a disaster? Remember, the #covid19 pandemic just happened.
In life, we all like good stuff. Good businesses and jobs. Good health. Great families. Money. Happiness.
All these good things will surely be interfered with at one time or another. And in many ways – by isolated catastrophic incidents like COVID-19 pandemic or by problems of day to day living that we all experience at one time or another.
For this conversation, we’ll use the COVID-19 as a reference.
As business leaders of the organizations we look after, to be able to weather the storms and win amid pandemics we have got to create flexibility in our businesses to be able to respond to any challenge – be it a pandemic or loss of top customers. We need a strategy that has flexibility at its core. Our businesses, customers, and stakeholders could all be different but one thing is clear – we have got to be prepared for business challenges. Take responsive action to minimize the negative effects.
“How do we do that?”
At Summit Consulting Ltd, we work with business leaders to whittle down business challenges. We help leaders become adept at what is critically important to their businesses and should be prioritized. Winning amid a pandemic (of any nature) is critical to your business and let us delve into the 4 steps to win amid a pandemic. – (i) chose to stay ready, (ii) assess, (iii) change and (iv) transform.
- Choose to STAY READY – not get ready.
If a business chooses to get ready after the pandemic has hit, it is probably too late.
The guards on that night in Westlands Nairobi had deliberately chosen to stay ready. They did not get ready at the time of the incident. They anticipated an attack could happen, any time, to any house, and took steps to stay ready. VUCAP (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous, and pandemic) times are here.
Businesses with smart leaders were ready to launch the tools that have continued delivering value without the need for physical movement, were able to continue delivering value to their clients. At Summit Consulting, we haven’t felt the negative effects of limited movement during this COVID period because we were ready to launch the tools that have enabled us to continue delivering value to our clients.
As a business leader, stay alert to what is happening at the local and international levels. Develop pragmatic plans and anticipate what could go wrong at your business and what you can do to continue delivering value.
- ASSESS accurately – and face the truth
If a calamity hits, business leaders immediately assess the situation with a view of determining their next steps. The gauge, they judge and evaluate the best courses of action considering what has happened and what is likely to happen in the medium to long term as a result of the disruption.
By instinct, the dog, that night at our bungalow was able to assess the intrusion.
In business lingo, this is sometimes referred to as Disaster Response. And no response plan is adequate without recovery. That is why you must start by defining your ambition/ aspiration or vision, your purpose, and your values. These become your decision guiding principles. If your value is to people safety first, support customers and stakeholders, etc you must live by it as you document your #covid19 response and recovery plan.
Undertake a SWOT analysis – what are your internal capabilities – money, markets, manpower, machinery, makeup, and materials do you need? Which areas are causing cash flow losses? How do you stop the losses and preserve value? Which opportunities are available? Undertake a strategic assessment to make decisions informed by insights.
Then you have got to change, and fast.
- CHANGE – and fast.
Yes, crisis times call for swift action. Change to keep your business afloat amid a pandemic. Empower your stakeholders with the tools they need to keep your business afloat. Implement the necessary changes at both strategic and tactical levels.
From their stationary positions that night, the dogs and the guards in the neighborhood all changed and started barking and running after the intruders.
We are helping several of our clients implement a 90-day action plans to keep their businesses afloat and we are seeing businesses get transformed.
What changes are needed? Where?
Which staff skills do we require? Do you have the skills in house? Do we need to re-skill the current staff? Do we need to recruit? Which tools do we need to support remote working? And what changes must be made in our operating procedures?
Do we need a remote working policy?
Which customers do we need to support? Who are our top 20 customers? Which channels do we need to invest in to keep them served?
After a thorough process, you must have a clear priority list.
But that is not enough. You have got to take action that will lead to your transformation. So, how do you transform?
- TRANSFORM – and thrive
With the changes, you have implemented during a pandemic, re-invent your business, and adapt. Make money.
It is a new reality and organizations that are agile will win even more in pandemic times. Leverage your team. Engage them during these times when they are working remotely.
To transform you need a work plan. It does not matter what is on your priority list, if you don’t take action, nothing will be achieved. Get up and start executing.
What are your targets? Tasks? Responsibilities and KPIs? What is the budget involved and who is responsible? And what are the milestones? Progress requires being clear on what to do, by who and by when. No stories.
Monitor implementation of your priority list frequently as part of your day to day process.
Here are some take-aways
It is never too late to do the right thing. Assess, Act, and Repeat to win even more. Assess your response to the pandemic, Act on the choices you have made, and Repeat. You will surely make the most of this pandemic and you will be even more prepared for future pandemics (of all nature)
The above is a summary of the webinar held on 19th May 2020 by the Summit Consulting Directors, Mustapha B Mugisa, Mr. Strategy, and Pius Babyesiza, Mr. Change Agent.
Copyright Summit Consulting Ltd, 2020. All rights reserved.