Originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal, August 21, 2020
Pandemic fallout has been a setback for many. There is pain, fear, and disappointment.
As the owner of a small business, I know those feelings well, as do many of you.
Deep inside, you also know that this will eventually be but a memory. It is up to you to shape what comes next. You can make a memory that inspires you, and maybe others, whether you are running a business, a department, or heading a team.
Every leader must embrace this opportunity wholeheartedly. No exceptions.
These seven steps will help shape to your future memories of the current crisis.
Step 1: Establish big-picture breaks
Set aside a half hour or hour each week when you step away from urgent matters, including crisis management. Schedule them in your calendar like every important appointment.
Step 2: Rediscover your 3Ps
Use the big-picture breaks to rediscover and connect with your Passion, Purpose and Peak.
- Your Passion is what you care about most deeply as a leader.
- Your Purpose is an expression of your ultimate business goal, sparked by your passion.
- Your Peak is the measurable accomplishment that will tell you that you have reached the pinnacle of your passion and purpose.
Write it all down, and work to distill each of the 3Ps into one sentence.
Step 3: Identify the 3Ms
Next, focus on the Meaning, Morale and Motivation for your teams.
- Meaning is a brief, simple description of your 3Ps, written in a way that others can understand clearly.
- Morale is your plan for instilling and maintaining engagement and energy across your team.
- Motivation is your plan for cultivating and nurturing your team’s drive to do the right things for the business and do them well.
The 3Ms bring your Passion, Purpose and Peak to life, inspiring everyone at the table with the same vision.
Again, write it all down. Distill your thoughts on each of the 3Ms into a couple of sentences.
Step 4: Create scenarios about uncertainty
Now visualize the uncertainties ahead. The objective is to see through the fog of constant change. Get your key people involved through the remaining steps.
With your 3Ps and 3Ms top of mind, look into the future. You want to create 3 to 5 future scenarios that express the most meaningful uncertainties for your business.
These scenarios will inform your strategies and actions over the next 12 months in an uncertain world.
To create your scenarios:
List five to seven sources of uncertainty that could have the greatest impact on your business. These might be major events or important business drivers.
Events could include the upcoming election, a pandemic resurgence, or a very deep recession, among other things. Important business drivers can include supply chain disruptions, changes in consumer demand, or access to capital or top talent.
Write these down, taking into account the thoughts of your key people, and then identify the 5 to 7 most important.
To address these five to seven areas of uncertainly, look 12 months into the future.
For each uncertainty, outline what you consider to be most likely path for your business. This is your base case. Then, create two more challenging outcomes for that same uncertainty. Make these outcomes significantly different from your base case.
You now have a number of building blocks for creating scenarios that incorporate principal uncertainties you might face.
Your primary scenario will be the combination of the most likely paths for each of your 5 to 7 areas of uncertainty.
Next, mix and match the remaining building blocks into additional scenarios. Each of these should be distinctly different from the primary scenario, and from one another.
Your result is three to five possible scenarios for the future of your business.
Step 5: Envision important future outcomes:
For each scenario, list reasonable yet aspirational outcomes for a year from now.
Consider your key business objectives. Modify each objective so it suits each scenario you’ve created. You should have as many lists as you have scenarios.
From these lists, envision and document measurable and specific business outcomes in as much detail as possible.
For example, an objective to “retain most of your existing customers” might translate into the following:
- Customer satisfaction increase from current levels to 95%+
- A plan developed from customer input working to provide customers options to stay on
- Two new offerings launched by late this year gaining traction among existing customers
- Purchase levels for 60%+ customers at or above pre-pandemic levels
Each outcome can be further detailed to paint a clearer picture of where the business needs to be.
Step 6: Distill core 12-month goals
Using your list of business outcomes that correspond to the primary scenario, draw up the three to g most important 12-month goals for your business.
Document how your goals would evolve if one of your other scenarios come to the fore.
Develop a paragraph to describe each 12-month goal in clear and specific language so that someone who isn’t familiar with your business can understand it.
Step 7: Draw up your execution road map
With goals in hand, it’s now time to create a rough-cut road map of how you will get there.
Assign one owner for each goal. Each owner should work to identify and document three 90-day milestones leading to their goal. That will frame progress for the 90-, 180- and 270-day marks.
They should then prepare a paragraph description for the first 90-day milestone.
Plan brief, weekly meetings to check in on everyone’s progress towards their goal. Identify, discuss and resolve any issues that crop up, or any changes to the assumptions behind the current scenario.
At this point you are not thinking about the crisis, but about the opportunities that you have crafted from your less-than-ideal circumstances. Your team and you now have purpose and passion to make good on this opportunity, with the wind at your back instead of in your face.
Avik Roy is managing partner of Morph4Sys, a business performance consulting firm in Philadelphia.