COVID 19 BUSINESS RECOVERY
A business recovery strategy from the impact of COVID-19 around the world
A few months after it was first announced, the COVID 19 cloud has infected thousands of people and worried governments around the world. It has also disrupted business and sent organizations scrambling for cover as they search for a cure from this extraordinary attack. The world is beginning to realize that the damage caused by the flu is not going away in a hurry. The confusion is palpable as big and small business owners anticipate a new economic era in which no one has pat answers for recovery. Business will have to grope, crawl and wriggle out of the backhander dished out by nature with unmitigated wrath. Sadly, many businesses will just pack up, go home and wait for things to unfold. However, successful business minds will be thinking hard to develop a return to work formula. To help us build a business case to recover from the influenza outbreak; we must soberly describe the event the world is going through.
A sudden disorienting environmental experience, causing long term disruption and shut down of operations beyond the power and control of an enterprise. A completely unplanned, unknown, unexpected and unexperienced economic lockdown. An event that takes an entrepreneur back to the drawing board to ask, “what exactly are we doing here?”.
The following eight steps are not a panacea, but neither are they a placebo. Every recovering business will go through a regeneration process incorporating elements of the following steps.
- Acknowledge Disruption
Take a deep breath and let it sink in. Articulate and communicate the extent of the new reality as far as you understand it. Consult with others in your field to confirm that you have not misread the broad industry signs, trends and core issues. Work with the facts and data. Avoid alarmist opinions and baseless views of unfolding circumstances. Since the situation is “unfolding”, it may be wise to observe it for a while to determine trends and direction.
Count your losses. Asses the collateral damage and consider the possibility of aftershocks. Establish your resource bases and ring fence your strategic reserves. Draw up a business case outlining your current situation in terms of immediate impact, short term initiatives and proposed medium term action. If you present this to your board, let them know that the circumstances remain fluid and that proposals may change as matters unfold. However, liabilities, risks and commitments must be evaluated and communicated to stakeholders as soon as is practical to mitigate against mounting liability, confusion and failure to meet contractual commitments.
- Engage Survival Measures
A business is a “going concern” and must therefore engage measures to ensure it survives the long term. Decisions will need to be made to keep your business alive as long as possible. These critical measures may be financial, operational, managerial or human resource decisions that preserve your strategic ability and capacity to continue in business. These immediate decisions are essentially survival measures and may be revised with timelines and implemented in phases as the environment evolves.
- Reflect on the Future
A great deal of time and resources can be wasted trying to resolve things you can do nothing about. Focus your energies on the “new normal” as opposed to hoping that things will go back to business as usual. The environment moved on and the future arrived before we were ready, we cannot go back, we need to work out how to move forward. This requires some clear-headed thinking and may mean corporate transformation, realignment of operations and the design of new business plans. Top of the agenda will be an answer to the question, “how do we want to define ourselves in the emergent future?”. How do we position ourselves for success in the new environment? What are the new realities, expectations and most of all opportunities that litter the landscape at ground zero? What else do we have the capacity to do?
- Develop a Critical Path
Develop a strategy canvas mapping out a critical path out of the chaos into order. Identify prioritized steps to guide the business to a relevant future. Remember the environment has undergone a paradigm shift. It has moved past a strategic inflection point that has created new realities (permanencies) of a new era. Old permanencies have dissolved. This strategy canvas could be anything from a six-month action plan to a several-year transition strategy depending on the size and complexity of your business.
- Facilitate Deep Conversations
Address the culture, tradition and organization software that enables the business to run and align it to the new reality. Openly address the implications of the facts on the table. Let the people converse and deal with their own fears and realities regarding the future in an accommodating atmosphere. But draw their attention to the limitations of the present and lay the groundwork for a new institutional culture. Let the people moan, but enable them to move through the groan zone to production mode. Identify obstacles that will halt desired change and discuss innovative ways to overcome them. In as far as is practical, exercise inclusivity to obtain buy-in to the proposed way forward.
- Disengage Dead Weight
Identify old technology that will take you no further – get rid of it! Consider redundant methodology and off load excessive luggage. Be very clear about what must stop, what we must no longer do and what we must start and continue to do. Start retooling, relearning, rethinking and re-kitting the organization to take advantage of new opportunities and equip it to deal with anticipated challenges ahead.
- Restart your Engines
“Ladies and gentlemen, restart your engines!” A pilot gets into the cockpit with flight plan A and preferably B and C. They know where they are taking the plane and the people. Pilots never start up everything at once nor do they do it in a haphazard manner. Every function is checked and rechecked before moving out of the hangar. There will be no tine to test equipment functionality in the air. A pilot starts the engines one by one before taxiing to the runway, obtaining clearance from the tower, executing take-off protocols, clearing the runway, climbing to cruise altitude and engaging the comfort of autopilot far above the clouds. Finally, don’t forget to pray your way all through.
©Allan Bukusi, March 2020
Allan, is a management consultant and author of the book How to Lead Corporate Transformation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org