When life gets back to ‘normal,’ do you want to go back to being the same? Or would you like to come out the other side of this storm, a changed person or business, a little better, healthier, wiser?
Almost overnight, the game has changed for leaders and businesses. Pre-pandemic, we seemed to be in a relatively stable world where many factors were known. Growth was relatively predictable and achieving success for some was the pursuit of perfection. Our ships were merrily sailing across the oceans delivering “Made in China” products to consumers at an increasing rate and profit.
Many leaders are currently in the middle of an emergency management situation for their countries and businesses and perfectionism has been thrown out the window in some cases.
Due to the uncertainty, leaders across all industries are adjusting strategies and supply chains, rewriting the rules of operating, and sometimes making things up as they go. This kind of leadership demands mental agility. However, there is a challenge: our minds are not naturally built for agility
How does Operational Excellence come into play?
Well-run Lean organizations utilizing Operational Excellence techniques will successfully weather this pandemic because they are superb problem solvers and able to manage in a crisis. No doubt, these Lean organizations will not only conceive the means to manage through the crisis but will emerge even stronger when the world comes out of it. They are the businesses when performing their daily work that focus on eliminating wastes and maximizing value to the customers because value is what customers need and expect and are willing to pay for.
Those businesses with simpler systems, processes that are mapped and have governance alongside their culture of innovation are lighter on their feet. They are faster at making decisions, meeting customer needs, and getting value from new products and services. This will matter even more as they look to turn this crisis into recovery.
Some leaders have a natural tendency in a crisis is to hunker down and retreat. Now is not the time for this. Now is the time for laser-like focus. Follow the lead of Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, who only looks to hire people smarter than him. Surround yourself with smart people. Create an environment for ingenuity by empowering teams to be innovative within the framework of operational excellence. This is especially important when so many people are working remotely.
What is your plan?
If your organisation has an Operational Excellence plan today, it is time to evaluate it. Leaders will need to have the willingness to make changes to this plan and potentially walk away from it and start a new plan. The two most important questions that must be asked:
1. What must we stop doing? (So, we can move our focus elsewhere)
2. What must we start doing?
A clear definition of what recovery means for each leader and organisation will make the answers to these questions easier to find.
Organisational alignment is essential
This recovery plan must be aligned to the organisation. Once developed, it will be important for leaders to step back and evaluate their organization through the lens of the plan itself.
1. Will there need to be a new structure?
2. Will additional capabilities need to be injected?
3. Are the processes outlined in the plan appropriate going forward?
To become better, faster, and cheaper, leaders need to ensure that everyone in the organization is willing and able to do well to be operationally excellent everyday. Whilst planning the deliveries on those ships sailing across stormy seas delivering their products no longer “Made in China” to consumers who purchase online and work from home.
To quote the famous Japanese author Haruki Murakami: "And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person “or business” who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about."
Let us hope this storm blows over soon and our businesses have become a little better, healthier, and wiser.