CRISIS LEADERSHIP

HOW TO THRIVE IN POST- COVID ERA
It was mid-February od 2021 when I was with a couple of clients who managed business upwards of
Rs 15 Cr. 2019-2020 was overall a challenging year for them, but by January 2020 things seemed to be
turning around. The last quarter of 2019-20 was not looking too bad – in fact we were all excited about
2020-21
We were planning growth; we were planning expansions; we were planning for exponential growth in
Revenue and Profits. By early March, things started changing. India started getting affected by
COVID19. State of Maharashtra along with other States saw restriction on movement. On 22nd of
March, there was Janata Curfew and by end of March, India was in a total lockdown.
This Crisis has changed the Rules of Business. Each one of us is going to be faced with making decisions
that need to be immediate but at the same time, thought through – keeping in mind
• Health & safety of their employees/team members/family
• Working from home, engaging with customers
• Looking at cash flow and expenses,
• And Above all our individual mental health and fortitude through these times.
As professionals and business owners, we also must lead the way and energize and motivate everyone
around us. We will have to keep convincing our people that while the going will be tough, we will all
finally come out successful.
I am advising my clients to come out with a 90-day Crisis Management Plan. Currently, there is no
point to plan further than 90 days, when the evolution of the Crisis is unpredictable, and the level of
Changes underway is significant. Once the first 60 days have passed, depending on how the situation
unfolds, we should plan for the next phase.
These are some of the steps that I am asking my clients to focus upon:

  1. Work backwards and take corrective actions to achieve the new reality
    a. Employees: Ask yourself a question, whether you would like to re-hire all the employees
    back if you started your business from Ground ZERO
    b. Expenses: Whether you would continue with existing cost structure? Examine this
    question in the light of this another question” Whether existing expenses are
    contributing to revenue or improving the processes
    c. Assets: Whether you would have preferred an asset light model. Let’s say
    subcontracting the manufacturing activity or buying your own assets
    d. Product Portfolio: Whether you would have sold same line of products or something
    else
  2. Crisis communications
    a. Run (virtual) town halls every day for all employees. Sometimes these need to be done
    multiple times during a day to keep the motivations up.


b. Manage speculations and gossips – plant a couple of whistle-blowers who would pass
on these types of communications to you.
c. Speak the truth – Your stakeholders will forgive you for being caught by surprise, but
they will never forgive you for lying or misleading them.

  1. Secure continuity of Operations
    a. Mobilize a “War Room” to secure appropriate operational continuity and adjusting
    Operations to new Business Model and to the Market reality.
    b. Stress-test the Operations Continuity Plans, using relevant “What If” scenarios to check
    fitness.
    c. The Supply Chain will be disrupted. Develop an Emergency Plan to roll-out after a
    calibration. Perfection is the enemy of good. Speed of execution is everything, and there
    is no time to waste
    d. Focus on Inventory Management and ensure timely supply of raw materials and
    products.
    e. Training – Retrain people especially key stakeholders and all sales professionals. They
    will not be able to meet their clients, but we still need to stay connected. How do we
    do it? Will Video conferencing work? Digital marketing? Test and Measure what can
    work and focus on upskilling.
  2. Relook at all your 3 components of Cash flow
    a. Operating Cash flow- This is the money that we need to keep our business afloat. Cash
    exchange from day to day activities of the business- Sales, Purchase, Salaries, Utilities,
    Working Capital
    b. Financing Cash Flow – How can we take advantage of all the moratoriums given by the
    Government/Banks to temporarily manage our “Operating Cash Flow”? Can we
    leverage more with the Banks or Financial Institutions?
    c. Investing Cash Flow – For Capital Expenditure. Which are the ones that can be
    postponed? Have specific timelines and milestones set for these Capital Expenditures.
  3. Create “The 90 Days Plan”
    a. Develop a lean plan, set 90 Days Goals, and reverse engineer to prioritize actions to
    reach Goals.
    b. Define Goals. Define weekly/monthly KPIs – Key Prediction Indicators.
    c. Calibrate key resources performance. Factor in key Assumptions of duration & level of
    changes.
    d. Deploy 90 Days Plan across Teams, with clear accountability and responsibilities.
    e. Do not overestimate compliance issues. Those were designed for normal operations.
    f. Control your actions, and always “control the controllables”.
  4. Recalibrate Sales and Marketing Functions to adapt to the “New Normal”
    a. Make sure you get the new marketing numbers and study them well. Become more
    targeted.
    b. Adjust the message and the means of communication to the new customers’ needs.
    c. Make sure you have the right Portfolio for the crisis and at the right Price.
    d. Go virtual, viral and ensure that the new communication methods reach the customer
    properly.


e. Cultivate your community – A peculiarity of this crisis is that in one way we’ve never
been more alone and yet also more united. In a sense, place doesn’t matter anymore.
We’re all alone together. This represents an opportunity.
f. What can you currently do for your clients to keep them engaged even during social
distancing?

  1. Be prepared to change
    a. We don’t know what the other side of this crisis will look like, but it is fair to say we will
    never be quite the same. This doesn’t have to be cause for fear.
  2. Practice the possible
    a. Focus on collaboration with clients, colleagues and partners on what we can do now
    b. What’s possible to get started on now?
    c. How can we adapt our processes for the new reality?
    d. What technologies can we use to shift a work session to virtual?
    e. How can we remain working efficiently while also connecting as humans?
    f. We are all tapping into sources of creativity and problem solving we didn’t know were
    there a month ago.
  3. Let go of all Negativity – Be excited to embrace the new world
    a. Lead with compassion. Crisis Leadership is about inspiring People, uniting them for a
    purpose.
    b. Embrace new Habits and Rituals. Take care of the health, physical and mental condition
    of all.
    c. Take care of yourself as the Leader. Work hard but leave always something in the tank.
    d. Have a Replacement for the Leader and for key People, in case anyone needsto be away
    during crisis.
    e. Ensure that everyone feels that they are all part of the solution (and not the problem)
    f. Build an organisational Mindset of Ownership, Accountability, Responsibility (OAR)
    instead of Blaming, Excusing, Denial (BED).
    g. Welcome Feedback & Suggestions, but crush Defeatism.
    In times of peace and prosperity it is easy to forget that the human race’s chief advantage is
    resilience. Our ability to adapt, problem-solve and respond to unexpected challenges is central to
    our survival and success.
    COVID-19 will be no different.
    With the right mix of empathy and creativity we can help soften the blow, be a source of
    inspiration and optimism
    And most importantly prepare for the opportunities we have ahead.