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Sunday, 1 July 2012

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'Have a plan during times of uncertainty'

There is no end to disturbing news. Uncertainties continue to haunt business organisations. Planning, forecasting, scenario gaming and predictions have become almost impossible.

Changes in the operating environment make strategies obsolete overnight. Delivering stakeholder expectations in such a volatile environment is extremely challenging for leaders and employees. Yet obligations and accountabilities don't go away. Your key question is; how do I stay focused when everything around me is constantly changing?

Distinguish between controllable and uncontrollable

Challenges fall into two segments: those that you can control and those over which you have no control. From a macroeconomic point of view, identifying relevant challenges to your business is critical. Then single-out the challenges which can be handled and make the strategic moves. This is the best you can do to determine your response.

There is no point in worrying about challenges you do not have any control over. It only burns you out and drains out all your positive energy. Mind you finally psychological defeat leads to physical defeat finally.

Difficult times are good times to check the fundamentals of your business.

Investing time and money to strengthen the fundamentals will create a better platform for growth when the market follows the next step of the cycle; recovery or boom.

Back to basics is a safe approach but there will still be opportunities to grow in a declining market when your competitors leave gaps due to distraction and frustration - some players give up in such situations. So keep your eyes open and grab those opportunities.

Communicate for clarity and morale

To keep your eye on the ball, you first have to define the 'new ball'. In other words, understand the relevant issues impacting your business and re-define what winning means to your organisation in the changed environment.

It could be still achieving positive growth or acceding to negative growth. Review all your strategic initiatives and decide which ones you should continue doing and, more importantly, which ones you should stop doing. Evaluate each initiative based on how well it supports your new definition of winning, determine its strategic value. Don't make decisions just on how much it costs or who thinks it's a good idea.

In times of uncertainty, most companies cut back on communicating with employees for fear of harming morale with constant bad news.

In reality, employees want and need to know more.

If you don't keep them informed, employees will fill the information gap by making things up, and most of what they make up is not good.

To keep employees from getting angry, anxious and distracted, constantly communicate about your organisation's approach to deal with the situation. Let people know that you have a plan to get through the uncertain times and how they can support it. Tell them why you can and will still win.

Listen to your customers; show empathy and love.

Talk to your customers more frequently, but listen more than you talk.

The market downturn affects them equally badly. This opportunity is a good one to show your empathy to build strong bonds with your customers and dealers. Passing on your pressure to them can only strain your relationship.

Maintaining focus is a matured approach

It's not as easy as it sounds.

It demands a disciplined approach. With focus, get clear on where you want to go in the new operating environment and how to play the game. Surround yourself visually with what will help you get to there.

Identify the relevant challenges, have a plan to mitigate the controllable challenges and rally people around re-aligned strategy and action plan - keep 'your eye on the ball' to survive the difficult times and create the platform for growth during good times.

 

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