As we approach the much-heralded new norm, businesses ready themselves to return to some semblance of business as usual. However, those business that settle for this, will have failed to have grasped the huge opportunities that Covid in its wild, merciless shake up of the world has paradoxically provided. For now, is not the time to settle for ‘normal’ how ever new it may feel, it’s a time to create the conditions for your organisation to thrive.
So how do we unlock this? – as an operational consultant, I passionately believe that the key to all of this lies in operations, not the sanitised, spreadsheeted version, but a deep understanding of the whole caboodle of component building bricks, (the lego bricks), that make up an organisation big or small, privately owned or publicly funded. It is through a forensic understanding of what each brick holds, how it functions, what its components are and how and why it connects to its fellow pieces that give organisations the upper hand. Operations of this kind lie at the heart of business and this level of deconstruction is critical for leaders to understand which levers they have at their disposal in both good and ‘less good’ times. And Covid is the mother of less good times.
Covid has ripped through the world, shining a light on those areas of our society where the operational heart has been limping rather than beating for far too long; a welfare system reliant in huge part on schools where funding is inadequate, data systems that reliably tell us the number of arrivals in the UK but not how many of those are in transit, are two examples on the national stage. Covid has exposed all operational weakness, forcing business to face the difficult decisions they have hitherto avoided, at best delayed making, when things were ‘good enough’. Yet those businesses which actively engage in ops, are proven to increase revenue by 20 -30% annually. These aren’t financial savings made by savvy accountants and FDs but the result of a lean and efficient business with a motivated workforce all crystal clear on the businesses’ wider remit and purpose and their individual role within that.
We see evidence of this in today’s landscape in those organisations that rolled up their sleeves early on, looked at their lego pieces, deconstructed their business and took brave decisions. It’s in large part why some breweries and restaurants were able to offer take away within 24 hours whilst others are just opening up to this now.
So, what are the 4 steps to gaining this business clarity?
Time to pull those lego bricks apart. Review your business with a forensic and objective lens. We often create a well rehearsed narrative for what our business is and why it operates as it does. Does this narrative reflect the reality? Businesses leaders tend to apply the same sticky plaster solutions to challenges which are often the result of deeper operational problems. Targets aren’t being met, so we review our sales teams – perhaps offering more L&D as the solution – but are our product or service teams ready to deliver to sales deadlines, is our proposition equally clear to all within the business or are we loosing time going back to clarify? Is there an understanding of the vital role each department plays? These are some of the difficult questions leaders need to ask themselves and find answers to.
Be clear of your value & offering
Once you’ve deconstructed your business your value offering will reveal itself – and it’s important to strip this right back. There’s no room for jargon, preconceptions, and collective ego! Flying Elephant, a Dublin based events company pre Covid, saw their business halted when lock down struck. They looked at their offering, realised they had teams who understood design and excelled in carpentry and a week from lock down started building desks for home working and garden furniture. Your offering isn’t always what you initially think it is. Look at the skills your work force has rather than job titles and departmental roles. Does the way you sell yourselves mask a key skill that might be your key opportunity for reinvention?
Imagine and invent
The above example requires a certain amount of imagination. Now is the time to rid ourselves of the usual barriers to creativity and focus on reinvention opportunities. It’s a business version of the ‘Whose line is it anyway?’ segment when the guest has to invent several uses for a well known object. Nothing is off limits if the first two steps have been done. If it’s unlikely you can pivot into new areas, can you partner to offer a broader service or new product.
Reinvent for the short & long term
The time for tough decision making is now. Many companies previously delayed their digital transformation programmes, satisfied that targets, (sales, billable hours, revenue targets) were met through other channels and so avoided the tricky business of remodelling and change. Covid has accelerated change, forcing us to take stock and now is the time for bravery. The speed at which companies, who’d long protested remote working wasn’t possible, shifted their entire workforce to home working, is evidence of the narrative’s leaders create for decisions (or indecision) within their business. Whilst remote working won’t suit everyone long term, consider which decisions you’ve hitherto tinkered around the edges of – is it time to be brave.
What’s important, is that these 4 steps are not Covid specific, they’re operational imperatives that enable businesses to soar in great times and to reinvent to thrive in challenging times. Who, after all wants to be normal – even if it’s a new normal?
Charlotte Lavender, Operational Consultant and Director of The Lavender Partnership (https://www.lavenderpartnership.com) will be discussing how Covid 19 has brought operations into sharper focus, and what best practice looks like in the weeks ahead – 2nd July at 11am. https://www.linkedin.com/in/charlotte-lavender-4750801b/