13 Aug Plan your bounce back
Bounce back planning in the current crisis
Preparing, equipping, training and supporting your workforce for the changes required to bounce back to profit needs careful planning well in advance. The benefits are clear. With formal planning you are six times more likely to meet your objectives, twice as likely to stay on budget and five times more likely to keep on schedule.
Each of these six success factors are drawn from the powerful Japanese Hoshin Kanri planning system. And each one has been invaluable to getting me rapid results for clients in many difficult circumstances over the last twenty-five years.
Whether knife-edge turnarounds or tricky change initiatives, the Hoshin Kanri way for recovery planning excels at calming a crisis, stabilizing cash-flow and getting back into profit fast.
1. Collaboration is key to a fast bounce back
Perhaps, the first all important principle is to plan your bounce back by engaging as many people as possible in the planning process. Basically, the wider the involvement the more powerful the planning.
To start with, this means selecting a cross-functional and multidisciplinary planning team. In essence, appoint the key people from every area and every significant function in the business onto the planning team. This way you can exploit their in-depth knowledge and experience. Easy access to this knowledge will help facilitate exhaustive analysis and quick but thorough problem-solving.
A collaborative effort helps people stick together and work conscientiously towards a unified purpose. A team-based approach to planning generates a community spirit. Furthermore, people feel that the organization is looking after everyone’s interests, not just the bottom-line.
Psychologically speaking, in a crisis people instinctively want to help their ‘group’ survive. As such, team planning gives everyone a practical means to do just that. In other words, with team planning you harness everyone’s personal survival instincts to help the group. In contrast, when you exclude people from the planning process, fear sets in and those same individual survival instincts start to work against the group as in “Every man for himself”.
2. The Reality Check
Now you have your team, the next step is to carry out a “Reality Check”. Get the facts about the situation from the people who really know what is going on. This means ask everyone, and I mean everyone in the organization for their specific take on the situation.
One important tip here. It is best to acquire this data in writing. I find that comprehensive data from all stakeholders gives you a solid basis for a systematic SWOT analysis and a deeper and more comprehensive range of facts to work with. Written feedback helps you avoid overlooking things and getting tripped up by hidden snags. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen situations rescued or massive opportunities suddenly open-up simply by adopting this written fact-finding technique.
3. The planning workshop
Once you have the feedback, get the whole team to read it all in one session. Then move straight on to develop action plans for each of the issues raised. This preliminary reading exercise equips each individual member with a global knowledge of the issues facing the business. Everyone understanding the bigger picture is an important advantage, as it helps managers become more sensitive to the impact they may have on other areas. With a more global awareness they are also alert to the possible impact of other people’s actions on them. As a result, your action plans are less likely to get snagged on those ‘unintended consequences’ that often bedevil planning.
Another benefit is that having all the facts to hand reduces the amount of ‘opinions’ people have about the situation. And the last thing you want in a crisis is opinions. Opinions quickly lead to disagreements and in stressed circumstances, disagreements easily turn into resistance at best and heated conflict at worst. With better and more comprehensive data you more easily arrive at a consensus as to what to do. It is then easier for the team to develop and commit to prioritized action plans.
Team planning also helps reduce dependency on key people. You have no idea who will be absent for a while and obviously you cannot afford essential processes and services to fail while someone is away. Planning with a cross-functional team ensures everyone is aware of at least the basic details of the recovery plan. Similarly, when people are part of the planning process, they take more responsibility for its overall success not just their part of it. This is crucial to generate mutual support between the team members if things start getting tough.
4. What do we need to learn?
At the end of the workshop, delegate each action plan to the relevant manager for implementation. But, before they rush into the implementation stage, ask them to consider one simple question. What do you need to learn to make this action a success? The point is that, they are more than likely embarking into new territory and so face new and unknown risks and uncertainties. Hence, there may be much to learn.
You will find that giving space for learning new things at this stage will pay dividends later. In effect this step prompts your managers to develop new skills and adopt different methods to cope with the new circumstances.
5. Keep stress levels down
Of critical importance to your bounce back, collaborative working helps keep stress levels down. This is because, both the ability and desire to collaborate for the good of the host group is literally hardwired into the DNA of every one of your employees. As a direct result, when the organization enables collaborative working, people feel they belong more. They also feel more valued and so rise to the challenges of problem-solving. The importance of this is that lower stress levels means clearer thinking. It also means less conflict and more creative problem-solving among everyone involved.
Leading on from this last factor, it can be lonely at the top and never more so than in a crisis. You will find that a collaborative effort also reduces the stress for you as leader. You will be working closely with the support and loyalty of everyone around you.
6. Monitor the bounce back closely
Finally, follow up the implementation stage with frequent progress reviews. Get everyone to turn up and briefly report on four factors.
- What they said they would do.
- What they have done,
- Why this might be different, and of course;
- What they are doing next.
I always find it really helpful to publish the revised action points immediately after the session. A quick turnaround of action points maintains that sense of urgency. Incidentally, reviews need to be held at least once a week and possibly daily, depending on the circumstances. This type of frequency maintains momentum and keeps everyone in touch with new events and new directions as they emerge.
Go slower get there quicker
A team planning approach may seem unnecessarily time consuming and slow. However, I can assure you it is the fastest way to achieve sweeping business improvements, tackle tricky situations and plan your bounce back to some sort of normality again. The motto is ‘Go slower and get there quicker’. In my experience, time spent with your whole team in planning will pay countless dividends later on. The important point is once you start, keep up the momentum. Also insist on exhaustive planning work, analysis and study with a rapid transition to the implementation stage. Good luck.
The article ‘Plan your bounce back’ first appeared in Management Today
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He is author of ‘Reinventing management thinking’ – using science to liberate the human spirit’ now available on Amazon and good book stores.