Sun Tzu, the Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher is often quoted to have said “In times of peace prepare for war, in times of war prepare for peace”. Or put more simply, use the current state to prepare for the next state.
In the very uncertain times at the moment with the world economy closing down there are businesses struggling and people being put out of work on a daily basis. There are also many business leaders trying hard to minimise the impact on their workers. It is for this reason that the words of Sun Tzu echo back to me.
I would encourage business leaders to use the current uncertain times to take stock of their business and see what can be done to prepare the business for when the current crisis is over. In my consulting work I often talk to businesses about their ‘opportunity list’. This is the list of projects, ideas and other tasks that seem to slip through the gaps during the usual hustle and bustle of business but would provide a long term benefit to the organisation.
Think of all the times you might have said “If we only had the time ….”. Well now is the time. This is the time to look at preparing business for the future.
Seize the opportunity
Although I suspect many leaders don’t currently have an ‘opportunity list’ where they have written down all the things that would make business better. Now would be an excellent time to start the dialogue with staff about the things that can be done. Putting the effort in now in keeping people employed as much as is possible, to prepare the business for when it comes out of this dark and gloomy tunnel of shutdown, is money well spent.
There is no right or wrong with this. There is no magic master plan that you can download and follow. This is the time for business leaders to stand up and take charge and prepare for the future, however this might look. The future is uncertain I hear you say, then it’s time to consider what possibilities might emerge. Do we expect to return to business as usual? Will we continue in a modified operating structure? Has the current situation caused us to think about the future organisation structure? Will we have less offices and more virtual workers in the future? If so, what would this look like from a legal and industrial relations perspective? What technology and operating procedures might be needed for this to be the new normal?
At the coalface
Even at a more micro level at the coalface, there are so many tasks in businesses that could be done during some quiet time. Archive records, organisation the workplace, clear out junk, conduct training, write work instructions, review position descriptions and performance reviews, do a skills matrix, carry out equipment maintenance, conduct stocktakes and audits, update customer database, review the strategic plan. If your business has some sort of accreditation in place is everything up to scratch for the next audit? Take stock of your marketing collateral, does it represent your current business needs or needs for the future?
Is it time for a revamp of marketing materials?
Are you ready?
The two questions that leaders should be asking themselves right now are; firstly,
“If I had a magic wand, what would my business look like in the future?”
“Have I put in place the things that will contribute to success when this crisis is all over?”
Use the current state to prepare for a better future state for your business and don’t be left in the future thinking ‘if only I had the time’.
John Yealland is a management consultant and process improvement expert who has worked with business leaders in a wide range of industries to help them improve the performance of their organisation.