Almost all companies at some point face some serious crisis. Sometimes it is clear that the end is near or coming and no one can see the light at the end of the tunnel, at least not until you see it. Sometimes you know there is a way out but not sure how.
Facing with disruptive changes driven by innovative technologies or shifting regulations, it is clear that the strategy is no longer working. You see the demand of your products is disappearing or new business models or low cost payers are eating your lunch. What do you do?
There is often a short window of opportunity to do something radically different; it has to be drastically different. Any incremental change or window dressing will push you closer to the end. If there’s a chance (there are always chances) of saving the company, make sure your executive team is focusing on three things. Read on.
For decades, I have been studying, observing, advising, and directing companies globally on their journeys to find growth, reignite growth, avoid decline, avoid death and reinvent themselves. Here are the three things you must pay attention to:
The first one is stop and think. Don't push the panic button. Go on a short vacation (go somewhere far) and find some time away from the madness and clear your mind. Think how to steer your organization’s course away from the one that got you into this mess in the first place. Don’t madly run around rearranging the decks chairs on a sinking ship. Find the source of problem and stop the leaking. Avoid hanging to the past, board of directors have different views and industry lifecycles are showing something different. The one thing for sure is what was working in the beginning would not work today and in times of uncertainty people go back to the past and hang on to something that once worked well.
Think what strategy will leapfrog you into the future. What business model options are there and what behaviour will impact customer preference in the future. You need to think ahead more. Executive focus on rather short-term horizons due to public pressure in the case of public companies and forget about how important it is to create the future. They assume the same formula that gets them there in the first place can get them there in the future. Or they focus on internal politics and as a result cause inactions. The organizations are operating on old mental models and not recognizing that their business models have expired. They failed to reinvent their core and yet they have no clue on to how to invent the future. There are endless debates and power points but no action to invent the future.
The second one is to give your company a larger purpose. Don't underestimate the power of purpose. It needs to be big. It cannot be about you or customers, that’s not enough. What is your version of “making a dent in the universe?”
To keep people focused and inspired, give them something to work toward. We all need a reason to come to work (at least for the best people) and there is not a more important time to remind them. Otherwise they will leave. We all need a purpose; it is the only thing that people can hang on to through tough times. It is what makes the company resilient.
The third one is maintaining positive emotional energy. People are going to be worried, insecure, frustrated and even angry. You need to care about them and allow room for them to express it while making sure leadership radiates a sense of energy, not fear. Energy doesn’t come from empty words but a real sense of optimism backed by strategy and action.
A sound strategy to bring back the company is what forms the core of the energy and radiates them through open dialogue – not newsletter or email. Don’t drive these discussions underground and make sure all senior executives are available to talk with people. Open communication is important to maintain the trust.
All great companies go through very difficult times at some point and some even have near death experiences. They survive disruptions and even self-destruction in order for them to get to the next level. No companies are immune and anytime we think we are safe we are taking the first step on the path to decline. The concept of core competencies is an interesting idea. Whether the companies’ core competencies are giving products and services unique functionality or building a worldwide distribution, this could lead to a decision with companies avoiding to think "New Game." It provides logic for the strategy but also limiting strategic options. In the strategic making process, competencies need to go beyond the core. It is not a time to be academic. Strategy making is a dynamic exercise that allows you to see the whole system (industry) before you zoom into your value-creating activities.
When companies are on a path of rapid decline, and see the decline accelerating, they go into a panic mode and embark on multiple tactical measures that are not addressing the core problems. Being able to frame the core problems even under extreme pressure is critical and not putting 100% of your energy on things that doesn't matter. All the repeated unsuccessful tactical attempts will drain the company’s resources, human energy and customer confidence until they have no turning point. Maintaining the energy or Chi (Chi is a Chinese word meaning aliveness, life force energy or life breath) is vital for turnaround and it doesn’t matter if you have the right strategy, without the energy or Chi, you won’t be able to execute the strategy.