Keeping the 'eye on the ball' 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 accountability don't go away. The key question is; how
do I stay focused when everything around me is constantly changing.
Distinguish between controllable and uncontrollable
Challenges fall into two categories; those you can control and those
you have no control over. From a macroeconomic cocktail identifying the
relevant challenges to your own business is critical.
Then single out the challenges you can do something about, with quick
strategic moves; this is the best you can do to determine your response.
There is absolutely no point in worrying about challenges you do not
have any control over. It only burns you out and drains out all your
Mind you, 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, those you should stop doing.
Evaluate each initiative based on how well it supports your new
definition of winning and determine its strategic value.
Don't make decisions just on how much it costs or who thinks it's a
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
avoid employees 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
Talk to your customers more frequently, but listen more than you
talk. The market downturn affects them too. This opportunity is good 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 an experienced behaviour, it's not as
easy as it sounds. It demands a disciplined approach. With focus, get a
clear picture 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 there.
Identify the relevant challenges, have a plan to mitigate the
controllable challenges and rally people around the 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.