13 May Planning your bounce back
Recovery planning in the current crisis
So, we have had the first wave with lock-down. Now we need to get ready for the second wave. By that I mean there is a going to be a tidal wave of things to do to bounce back and return to some type of normal.
An immediate priority for many firms will be to ramp up cash flow and profitability as fast as possible. And this will be despite the chaos of missing customers, disrupted supplies, over loaded credit and perhaps absent staff.
Never has clear planning been more vital in peacetime.
For a number of reasons, a team-based approach will help you handle the numerous risks, threats and opportunities that emerge as the UK economy staggers back to work.
Below are six planning tips that have helped me get rapid results for clients in many difficult circumstances over the last twenty-five years during my Hoshin Kanri programs. Assignments have included some knife-edge turnarounds, major change initiatives and recovery planning during economic downturns.
Six success factors
1. Collaboration is key to a fast bounce back
The first all important principle is to carry out your recovery planning by engaging as many people as possible in planning your bounce back. 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 every area and significant function in the business onto the planning team to 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 and people feel that the organisation 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.
Publish the revised action points immediately after the session. These 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 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.
Click here for more information on how team planning and Hoshin Kanri can help your bounce back.
He is author of ‘Reinventing management thinking’ – using science to liberate the human spirit’ now available on Amazon and good book stores.