by Eric Hammons, Derrick Williams

Focus on people, performance and prioritization in your business continuity efforts.

The disruption created by the COVID-19 crisis cannot be understated. With complete pivots of entire businesses, the c-suite has had to make a lot of changes – quickly. While the crisis will pass, organizations need to be ready for the next big disruption.

A key takeaway from the current crisis is that preparation and planning take time. To adequately prepare for the next crisis, leaders must focus on the right levers now – people, performance and prioritization.

Put Trust in Your People – Don’t Go at it Alone

Be very deliberate about the experience you want to create, including how your leaders show up, what their tone and voice is, how feedback will be handled, etc. To do this:

  • Trust your teams. Companies have seen employees at every level lean in and accomplish amazing things. Raise the ante on risk-reward and ownership culture, and implement incentives to keep the momentum rolling. Have a strategy to initiate two-way communication between leaders and employees.
  • Leverage workforce data to keep updated on your employees’ skill sets. It’s critical to know what skills reside within your teams. Implement a policy to ensure that employees keep their skills up to date on a regular basis. Tools like Teammatics are an ideal repository for this information, and it is important to leverage employees in a way that best meets your organization’s immediate needs.
  • Find ways to stay close to your customers and employees. People want to be close during times of distress – challenge yourself to be even closer. Talk to your people directly, be transparent about performance data and create a new cadence of pulling customer insight into your organization. 

Make Your Performance Metrics Fit New Economic Realities

As customer and supply chain behavior changed, many companies found they needed to reset financial, and sometimes individual performance, goals to better align with the new realities. Yet many companies struggled to grasp these new realities and how they were affecting their customers and supply chains. As a result, they did not pivot soon enough. In some cases, leaders had to change their overall mindset – from establishing profitable goals to break-even goals – to do what was most important for the company and employees.

In the future, companies will need to better understand the factors that drive their metrics so they can quickly put new metrics in place as underlying realities change. To do so, measure what matters. The move to remote work exposed unpleasant realities for many companies: the existence of non-value add work, inefficiencies within operations, and the lack of methods for monitoring and increasing the value-add work employees produce. To design a metrics framework that captures outputs and monitors waste, individual departments will need to create a clear line of sight on activities that drive cost and revenue, and ensure they have enough cross-skilled resources to support essential tasks.

Prioritize and Invest in the Non-Negotiables Now

Know which initiatives are essential to your business and aligned with your enterprise strategy. To determine which initiatives to continue to invest in during a crisis:

  • Have an objective and methodical process in place to remove the guesswork and emotions, thereby making it a fact-based decision (this is where a transformation office is helpful).
  • Have a plan to reduce and/or eliminate costs, but understand which ones will have the biggest impact on your business.
  • Prioritize and sequence cost cutting initiatives – reimbursable expenses, discretionary spend, salary, etc.
  • Review business continuity policies to make sure they account for extreme crises (e.g., what did we have to react to and prepare for real-time because we did not have a policy or guidance around).
  • Gather staff input on areas of improvement and what policies or guidance they need.
  • Invest in innovation by determining the type of leadership skills, governance, and execution mechanisms you’ll need to innovate.
  • Don’t just think ahead – act ahead. As you try to think ahead, be deliberate with your choices and move fast on execution.
  • Be prepared to flush your model. You may have a scenario planning model, but chances are that your assumptions are already flawed given the pace and uncertain nature of this crisis. Be willing to flush your model down the drain and view all areas of your business through a fresh lens.

The Bottom Line

While the current crisis has hurt most organizations, there are lessons to be learned. Having a proactive plan will help you better respond and prepare for the next crisis.