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If the year-plus of Covid-19 felt like being in nonstop crisis-management mode, you’re not alone. Companies all over the world were caught off guard, temporarily putting long-term goals on hold as they put out fires.
While we’re still grappling with the crisis, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Now, you and your leadership team might be looking at the fallout and asking, “How do we get back on track?”
It’s too late to avoid the disruption. You can, however, use these three steps to get your business moving forward again: compartmentalize your problems, create a clear narrative and communications plan, and draw upon your crisis experience.
Take these steps now, and not only will you get back up to speed faster, but you’ll also be better positioned to navigate the next major crisis that rocks the world.
Step No. 1: Compartmentalize Problems
With restrictions imposed due to Covid-19, companies had to make the dramatic shift from “business as usual” to operating out of a war room almost overnight. Suddenly, leadership had to put out one fire after the next, whether it was accommodating remote working, dealing with travel bans or managing supply and product shortages. Worst of all, we had no clear answer as to how long the disruption would last.
Many of us adapted to this centralized, fire-fighting leadership style, but now we’re returning to a semblance of normalcy. With it comes an opportunity — the chance to get ahead of the competition by compartmentalizing your problems quickly and effectively.
The war room approach worked for tackling your company’s most urgent problems, but it’s not efficient enough for long-term positioning and managing multiple challenges. For that, you want to decentralize and place people where they’ll create the greatest impact.
A decentralized company can solve many problems at once. The downside is that communication becomes more difficult than if you have all your decision-makers standing around the war table. To solve this problem and allow your company to make swift decisions and achieve its goals, you’ll want to assemble a cross-functional task force.
This task force, which should include experts from throughout the organization, can act tactfully to drive the organization forward. Instead of putting out fires, the task force functions as a trade wind and moves each compartment in the same direction.
Step No. 2: Establish a Clear Communication Plan and Narrative
As you move away from the putting-out-fires crisis state of the pandemic, your next step should be to establish a clear communication plan and company narrative.
Throughout the pandemic, we all dealt with a constant deluge of information: what was happening in the world regarding the novel coronavirus, a fluctuating stock market and the U.S. election, in addition to our company’s particular concerns. We could call this proactive communication, but it also meant contending with a lot of distractions.
Now that we’re reining in the virus, it’s time to refocus and establish clear communications. Create and share a narrative of your company’s direction and remind your team of the organization’s vision. Commit to authenticity in this effort — you don’t have the luxury of being wishy-washy. After such a tumultuous year, people are craving straight talk from their leaders.
Remember, everyone has been through an ordeal, and people process things at different speeds. By putting everyone back on the same page, you’ll build a foundation of trust, which in turn helps you get the most value out of your people.
Step No. 3: Draw Upon Your Crisis Experience
Compartmentalizing problems and reestablishing clear communication around the business’s direction will go a long way toward getting your company back on track. But what happens when the next crisis strikes?
To prevent a repeat situation — and avoid the fires by stopping them before they ignite — you’ll want to hold a crisis retrospective while the recent events are still fresh in your mind. Bring your leadership team together to answer the question, “What has this experience taught us?”
If there’s one silver lining to this pandemic, it’s that in some regards, we’re fortunate to have gone through a crisis and come out stronger on the other side. You’re experienced now, a crisis veteran, and you’ll be better prepared for the next disruption when it inevitably happens. You know what problems will likely arise for your company, and you’ve figured out how to mitigate them.
Now is the time to build contingencies and bolster your company. You might already have plans A and B, but what are your plans C, D and E? By thinking ahead and creating strategies that encompass multiple eventualities, the next crisis will present an opportunity to get ahead of the competition because you won’t be busy putting out fires.
Build Your Company’s Resilience
The pandemic knocked your company down, but by taking these three steps to get back up, you can build resilience. You’ve already paid for the crisis — now you’re cashing in on that experience and using it to pay for your insurance policy for the next disruption.
With the knowledge you’ve gained, you can stabilize your business even faster after the next setback. Make no mistake, there will be another crisis. The future holds uncertainty, whether it’s another pandemic, a market crash or a major industry shift, but the next crisis doesn’t have to affect your company like Covid-19.
Goliath companies like Disney and Amazon fared comparatively well, even thrived, during the pandemic, and it’s because they were already positioned to adapt quickly. They’ve learned how to pivot from dealing with past crises, and your company can do the same.
In short, don’t miss the opportunity to plan now. You’ll save your company time, money and resources in the future, and you’ll be able to adapt, no matter what the world throws at you.