Pandemic fallout, mild or severe, has been a setback for many. There is pain. There is fear. There is surely disappointment.
As the owner of a small business, I know each of those feelings well, as do many of you.
Deep inside, you also know that eventually this will be but a memory. Will it be a memory you dread? Or one that you cherish?
It is up to you to shape what comes next. Starting now. You can make a memory that inspires you, and maybe others, whether you are running a business, a department, or heading a team.
That is the opportunity (and the challenge) every leader must embrace, wholeheartedly. No exceptions.
These seven steps have helped my clients and I give shape to our future memories of the current crisis.
Step 1: Establish Big-Picture Breaks
Set aside time for recurring half to one-hour chunks of time when you step away from urgent matters, including crisis management, immediate issues, and whatever else qualifies as “business as usual” for your business and for you. Put them in your calendar like any other important appointment. Just you, a legal pad and pen, and your undivided attention.
Step#2: Rediscover Your 3Ps
Use the Big-Picture Breaks you scheduled in Step 1 to rediscover and establish a strong connection 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 that is sparked by your passion. Your peak is the metric that will show you when you have achieved your purpose. It’s the measurable accomplishment that will signal to you that you have reached the pinnacle of your passion and purpose.
Write down everything that comes to mind. Now, or during a later break, work to distill each of the 3Ps into one sentence.
Step 3: Identify The 3Ms
Armed with the 3Ps from Step 2, you can now turn your focus to the Meaning, Morale and Motivation for your teams.
Meaning is a brief and simple description that captures the essence of your 3Ps in a way that others can understand. Morale is your blueprint for instilling and maintaining a feeling of enthusiasm and encouragement across your team. Motivation is your game plan for cultivating and nurturing your team’s drive to always do the right things for the business and do them well.
The 3Ms will make your passion, purpose and peak a living thing for your teams. They can bring everyone to the table with the same vision for how to make your peak an attainable metric.
Start with what comes into your mind and write it all down. During a later break, distill your thoughts on each of the 3Ms into no more than a couple of sentences each.
Step 4: Create Scenarios to Take Uncertainty into Account
You are now ready to visualize the uncertainties ahead. The objective here is to see clearly through the fog of constant change. Ideally, get your key people involved through the remaining steps.
With your 3Ps and 3Ms clear and top of mind, it’s time to bring out your crystal ball and look into the future. You want to organize the most meaningful uncertainties that you identify for your business into 3 to 5 future scenarios. These scenarios will serve as static snapshots to inform and guide your strategies and actions over the next 12 to 18 months.
You can follow these guidelines to create your scenarios:
- List 5 to 7 sources of uncertainty that are likely to have the greatest impact on your business. These will consist of some combination of major events and business drivers. Events could include the November election, a resurgence of the pandemic, a deep recession, among other things.
Important business drivers that are not under your control can include supply chain disruptions, changes in consumer demand, or your access to capital or to top talent.
Write these all down, taking into account your ideas and the thoughts of your key people, and then identify the 5 to 7 most important ones.
- Address each of the areas of uncertainly that you have identified, and use your crystal ball to look 12 to 18 months into the future.
For each area of uncertainty, outline a case that you consider to be the most likely occurrence for your business. This is your base case. Then, create two occurrences that represent more challenging outcomes. Make them significantly different from your base case.
You will now have 15 to 21 building blocks to use for building scenarios for the various uncertainties you are anticipating.
- You and your team can now formulate your 3 to 5 scenarios from the base case and the more challenging outcomes you have identified in the above exercise.
First, aggregate the most likely cases for each of the areas of uncertainty into your primary scenario.
Next, mix and match the remaining building blocks you created into additional scenarios of the future. Each of these should be distinctly different from the primary scenario, and from one another.
You have successfully created 3 to 5 possible scenarios for the future of your business.
Step 5: Envision Important Future Outcomes
Imagine your business a year from now. For each of the 3 to 5 scenarios you have developed in the previous step, visualize reasonable yet aspirational outcomes for your business.
Start by considering your business objectives. Each scenario you have developed should suggest business objectives that are optimal for that scenario. With your team still engaged in the process, create a short list of these objectives for each scenario.
From those short lists, envision and write down business outcomes in as much detail as possible. These should be measurable and specific. For example, an objective to retain most of your existing customers might translate into the following outcomes.
- Customer satisfaction has increased from current levels to 95%+
- A plan that has been developed from customer input is working to provide customers options to stay on
- 2 new offerings launched by late this year are gaining traction among existing customers
- Purchase levels for 60%+ customers are 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 3 to 5 Core 12-Month Goals
Focus on your list of business outcomes that correspond to the primary scenario you developed in Step 5 and draw up the 3 to 5 most important 12-month goals for your business.
Goals may or may not directly correspond with the business outcomes you have identified. A single goal may contribute to the pursuit of two or more outcomes.
Consider and document how your goals would change if one of your other scenarios were to become more likely based on actual future events.
For each 12 month goal, develop a paragraph to describe it in clear and specific language. An effective description will make sense to someone who isn’t familiar with your business.
Step 7: Draw Up Your Execution Road Map
Now that you have some ideas about where your business could be headed, it’s time to draw up a rough-cut road map of how you will get from here to there.
First, assign one owner for each goal. Ask each owner to identify and document three key milestones towards their goal, each roughly 90 days apart from each other. That will frame progress for the 90-, 180- and 270-day marks, on your way to successful completion.
Next they should prepare a clear and complete 1-paragraph description for the first 90-day milestone.
You and your team can now plan brief, weekly meetings to check in on everyone’s progress towards their goal, and identify, discuss and resolve any issues that have cropped up, or any changes to the assumptions behind the current scenario.
At this point you are unlikely to be thinking about a crisis. Instead, you are thinking about the opportunities that you have crafted from your less-than-ideal circumstances.
Your team and you now have a purpose and a passion to make good on the opportunity. You have the wind in your back instead of in your face.
Let me know your thoughts and, if you choose to try out these seven steps, how it goes or if you run into any issues.