August 25, 2015 Anil Saxena

Leadership Follies: Are You Ready For The Winter?

Is your organization poised to make money on the coming recovery?  Are you preparing now or planning to change when it happens?

Do you prepare when you know a change is coming?

Towards the end of November at my house we begin to winterize.  That is, we start to prepare for what we are anticipating will be cold, windy and snowy weather.  Although we can’t predict exactly when, we know that it is inevitable.  So that we can not only survive, but thrive in the coming change of season there are precautions we must take and stop gaps we can employ.  Shouldn’t companies winterize too?  We know that winter, just like the economic recovery, is coming.  Are we prepared?

Can’t you just wait until it gets cold to prepare for the winter?

Sure we can.  However, like the tale of the ant and the grasshopper waiting for the cold, or the economic change, can be disastrous.  The problem that many organizations and teams faced in the recent downturn was that they did not react until it was too late.  The economy hit all hard, but some were ready, like the ant, and weathered it well.
Unfortunately, we have become accustomed to knee-jerk and just-in-time reactions.  Thereby, allowing the desire to profit in the next quarter cloud the judgment to advance the organization for the long haul.  The same can be said for the team or department.  We must begin to anticipate the change that is inevitably coming through leadership and preparation.  Until we do, we tempt being like the grasshopper more often than we’d like.

How do you “winterize” your organization?

1. Find out what is really going on in the organization.

During an economic downturn, organizations often take drastic cost cutting measures.  Employees understand the reality of this.  That being said, it is important to understand the “state of your state”.  This is not just from P&L standpoint.  You have to be aware of trends within employee and customer ranks.  Invest in an engagement system to understand how well aligned and prepared for an uptick in business.  It is vital that you know the level of engagement to ensure flexibility and ability to act.

2. Prepare your managers

Managers are the front line of information and support for the organization.  Too many times, managers are left without tools or training to answer questions and hold discussions about changes to the organization.  They have the proximity and power to dispel rumors and create some momentum for the pending change. They don’t have the power to make the change by themselves.  Bu, it is critical to ensure they are developed and there is alignment between the organizational strategy and culture and the managerial ones.

3. Determine key roles and functions within the organization.

It sounds a little unkind, but there are some roles that are critical to the function of your team or organization.  There are some people and positions that have knowledge that would take a great deal of time to teach others or might hinder operations with access to.  Once you identify these people and positions, put plans in place to capture the critical knowledge, learn best practices and how to encourage them to grow with your organization.

4. Cross Train

Make sure that you are cross train knowledge within teams, departments, etc.  Once the critical positions and people have been identified, you can accurately partner folks based on their knowledge and need for growth.  Doing this can also be a method of recognition for both the person training and doing the training.  Mentoring can be a power method to continue to the good aspects of organizational culture.

5. Develop your current staff

Use the data from your engagement study you can uncover the development needs of your staff.  When combined with employee interviews, a baseline can be uncovered that will increase their productivity and abilities.  Development is inexpensive compared to losing customers or opportunities.

Does this really work?

Although all companies have been affected by the recent economic downturn, there are some that have fared relatively well.  Those that have, generally speaking, have focused on these five keys.  Apple, Wal-mart, Toyota, and others have shown that by focusing on what they do well and preparing for change companies can survive almost anything the economy throws their way.

Do you know what your employees are really thinking?  What are you doing to prepare for the coming economic change? Or are you just hoping that things will work themselves out?  If you are preparing, I would love to hear what you are doing or how!


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