Crisis context: Is it beyond us, or can we overcome it?

In crisis situations, we hardly even have time to reflect. And being able to dedicate a minimum time to it will be what makes all the difference. A crisis is indeed a situation of impact, where there has been a significant change in conditions and scenario. A context of crisis: Is it beyond us, or can we overcome it?

How are we doing in our company? How are we doing in our area / unit? Covid, the economic and climate context are generating changes for us. What is your situation of change? I invite you to reflect on it in an orderly way. I’m sure it will give you speed on how to manage it. In addition, we have many tools at our disposal that can help us. In this post, I base on the elements that are part of a change management process and the foundations of the Kotter model. I propose 7 questions to think about in order to focus on the steps to take with greater certainty.

Question #1: What factors indicate the need for change?

The first question has to do with what happened or what will happen. It defines the real sense of urgency on which to act, which is the first thing to identify. Don’t underestimate this point! Reflecting well on what is happening, on the diagnosis, which can be multifactorial, positions your real starting point.

This question lead to more. Asking the right questions and identifying one or more of the situations that are occurring, without hiding any realities nor complexes, is absolutely necessary:

  • My sales have dropped substantially, why? Does my product no longer make sense? Is it not needed as it is? Can I develop it? Or do I have to rethink it completely? My client portfolio has had a great impact: can I help them in any way? What would be necessary now? How do I reach another type of customer?
  • My sales have skyrocketed and… I don’t have the operational capacity to respond? Do I need more raw material? Am I not productive enough as a company? Am I not digitally ready to take it on? Am I not sufficiently prepared in other aspects, labor risks, organization? Are the teams autonomous enough?
  • The existing knowledge in the organization is not sufficient to address the situation. We do not know how to respond to the needs that our clients are asking us for right now. How do I get access to the necessary knowledge? How do I make my company evolve?
  • The sector I am in has been very affected, what actions are underway in the sector’s associations? What need has “disappeared” and what need would be a great solution to respond to? In the medium / long term, what would have happened? Among my ideas for the future, can I take a chance on any of them now?
  • My margin has been seriously affected, and I cannot improve it, what are my processes like? What causes them to be affected more and more? What speed of response do I have? What would be a valid scenario?
  • ….

Understanding the challenge well, and being clear about the starting point is the key to moving in the direction that gives results. In addition, it is the basis for mobilizing the organization. And it will mark the coherence of our actions.

Question #2:Who do we need?

You, as the leader of the organization, are the first person who has to answer yourself:

  • Do I know how to do it? Do I need help?
  • Do all the key people in my company see the same problem / challenge?
  • Who are these key people?
  • Do I have the necessary equipment for the new scenario?
  • How do I reach the entire organization, both in communicating and in adapting what we have identified?
  • ….

Only with the same understanding of the situation by the entire organization can progress be made. The involvement of the necessary teams, and the coalition at the management team level and at the organizational level make all the difference.

Take a good look at the internal talent you have, the accessible external talent that you may need, and that know what you need.

Asking for outside help is in no way a sign of weakness, as may perhaps be understood in traditional leadership. Moreover, considering to ask for criticism and to ask for help is one of the characteristics of leadership that helps companies evolve.

Question #3: What and what for?

From the identified sense of urgency, visualizing where you want to go, what you want to achieve, helps to clarify the vision.

And that same clarity facilitates reflection on the path that must be taken to achieve it.

It means reflecting on the intended purpose integrated in the purpose of the company. This makes communication with teams flow. It makes it easier for the entire organization to see where we want to go.

Explaining the vision is a constant that accompanies us in every process of change.

Overcoming the current situation requires visualizing a future scenario.

Are you clear about your “What for”?

Put on different hats: that of the Client, Property, General Manager, person employed in different areas, Supplier, Competitor… and you will be able to reflect on and construct your “What for” very well.

Question #4: What obstacles can I come across?

Not addressing each and every one of the difficulties that may arise is one of the great barriers to overcoming a certain crisis situation. Perhaps in an environment of crisis some of them are more evident, although it is true that on many occasions we tend to minimize or ignore some difficulties, which end up “showing their faces”, and that in a very forceful way. They can become “stoppers” to what we want to achieve.

Have you thought about your obstacles, your difficulties?

Reflecting on them, how they can be dealt with, measuring their impact, helps to build the way forward. Even to check if the necessary knowledge is present in the organization and to give more answers to Question # 2, which we asked ourselves before.

Question #5: Can I identify small short-term successes?

Are you clear a priori what they could be? Do you sense them? Does your team visualize them?

If you get short-term action, success, small profits, you build confidence on the path outlined, and the team consolidates. This allows for sustained results.

Ask yourself what little goals, what little things would be important to have at the beginning.

Depending on what is being done and the objective pursued, the Lean Start-up mentality is highly recommended. It allows you to move forward in a solid way when you have to create new products, new lines of business. Take it also into account when reflecting on the way forward.

Question #6: How do I build on the path once started?

When you get the first few hits, you may be tempted to “declare victory” too early. This is usually a mistake.

You need to minimally consolidate the steps taken, see that they give the expected results and monitor them. From there on, this does serve as an anchor for the next steps planned, the following actions, and all of that without losing the “what for” out of sight as you advance.

Have you ever wondered what you would monitor? What would be the key to follow? What would be the indicators showing that you are advancing in the expected line?

Question #7: Any process of change implies a cultural evolution. How do I consolidate the necessary cultural change?

Observed behaviors are really the gauge of change. What behaviors do you have today? And what behaviors are necessary in the envisioned future? Are they the same, or are they different? And what about your own behavior?

What have you planned to encourage new behaviors? Do you have the leadership you need for it? Do you have to develop it, too?

Cultural change is not a fast path, therefore it has to start as soon as possible if you see it necessary, and reflect on its impact on each of the previous questions.

Even if you are in a crisis context, and you think there is no time for it, do not underestimate it. It is the key to really getting out of the crisis. There are very effective ways to do it.

Final recommendations:

  • Reflecting on all the questions at the same time feeds back into the answers, and this will allow you to define better the path you have to take. You identify the initiatives that you have to carry out, broadly speaking.
  • It is not easy. It is not obvious. Yes, it is possible to do. Yes, there are answers.
  • This scheme is just that, a scheme. There are always more questions coming from by the first reflections. It is good to have a high volume of questions.
  • The sincerity of the answer is crucial.

It is necessary to visualize minimally the path to build with the team. These questions help you in this minimal process. Having the answers helps. The absence of answers implies that you need to go deeper into what is happening, while that allows you to build more with the team.

We are talking about how to implement a vision, a strategy to follow, and how to make it happen, how to build the path that will make it happen.

Crisis context:: Is it beyond us, or can we overcome it?What is your answer?

If you need help, don’t hesitate to ask me.