Make sure you're prepared for what's next
Our previous house was an older home, 110 years old. We loved it. And we loved the neighborhood with all the other funky, hip 100-plus year-old homes.
I don’t know if you know this but, sometimes older homes need a little more work than others. One night during a hard rain we noticed a trickle of water sliding down our exposed chimney inside the house. Somewhere on the roof was likely a tiny leak letting a few drops of water in. No big deal. No major damage was happening.
So did we just let it go and put off having it repaired to sometime later when we got around to it?
We valued our house, and we valued the “stuff” we had in our house. Which do you think would cost more, paying to have a small hole fixed now or waiting and paying to have a much larger hole fixed along with repairing any water damage and replacing any items ruined from water damage?
For those of you who’re mathematically challenged, it would have been much more costly to just kick this can down the road.
With our current COVID-19 pandemic situation, many of us are starting to see a few cracks (maybe even a few gaping-wide holes) in our business and team processes. If you’re one of those who doesn’t have a plan to address these cracks, you’re not alone. Most business leaders don’t.
And if you’re one of the few who does have a plan in place, don’t start patting yourself on the back just yet. Most leaders who do have a plan don’t bother to make sure the plan stays current.
And even if you do have a plan, do you have a plan for EVERY crack you’re noticing? What about the cracks that aren’t there yet, but you know they’re coming?
Just like my roof, are you willing to take that gamble of not having a plan in place for your team? Because it may not be possible for your team to recover from a significant future challenges without a detailed, up-to-date plan.
One of the key behaviors I teach business leaders is: Innovate to stay ahead.
Now don’t get intimidated by the word, “innovate.” Innovation doesn’t necessarily mean technological changes. It simply means changing the established way of doing things by introducing new ideas or methods. That means anyone can innovate, even if they’re technologically challenged.
But in order to stay ahead, you’ve got to always be innovating. You’ve got to be constantly looking to the future. How are your customers going to change? How are their expectations going to change? How will the world change, and how is that going to effect your customers? Now how do you need to continuously improve and innovate what you provide so that you can proactively meet those changes before they happen?
Innovating to stay ahead will help you be prepared for any changes, challenges and opportunities that come in the future.
And when you’re prepared, you don’t have to panic.
And when you’re prepared, you don’t have to panic. (I know - I said it twice. I wanted to make sure it really sank in).
There’s a few things I know for certain. One of those is that change happens constantly. Tomorrow, life’s going to throw a pretty big “And then?” at you. The day after tomorrow it’s going to serve you another helping of “And then?”.
It doesn’t matter how powerful or influential you are. No amount of shouting, “No and then!” will keep life from throwing one after the other at you, and your business.
All you can do is prepare. And the best way to prepare is to plan.
When times are getting difficult and uncertain (like today) you have to plan so much more. I can’t stress this enough: today, you need to plan like you’ve never planned before. Work through scenarios in your head - then work them out on paper. Know in advance what you will do for each possible “and then?”,
Here are five steps to help you work through your plans:
- Build a cross-functional team
Good news: you don’t HAVE to do all of the planning yourself. In fact, you shouldn’t - you’ll likely miss a number of possibilities that others can see. Depending on the situation, your planning will likely need the cooperation of a number of key voices from across the company. Put together a team that makes sense for your organization. Then clearly define the roles, responsibilities and representation of each member.
- Create an action plan
Once you have a team in place and understand what you’re up against, you need to define how your organization will respond to likely situations.
- What are some potential challenges or future issues that could impact our customers’ needs and expectations? What can we do to start meeting those needs?
- What’s possibly coming in the future that will impact our organization’s resources, processes or procedures? How will we adjust for those changes?
- What are other companies doing to innovate? What can we learn from them?
- What are some manual steps we’re taking today that can be automated?
- Train your team
If you learned anything from 1980’s afternoon cartoons then you understand that knowing the plan is only half the battle . Your team also needs to clearly understand what to do and be comfortable carrying out responsibilities to execute your plan. And that takes training and walking through and testing scenarios so that key tasks are understood.
- Maintain and fine tune
Training and testing will give your team an idea of what works and what doesn’t, so you can make necessary adjustments to your plan. This way you can look at your plan as a living document and regularly update it as you learn and as new scenarios become likely.
- Fine tune it again
Remember, most business leaders that have a plan don’t bother to ensure their plan stays current. Good thing you’re not like most leaders, right? You have to regularly step back and see what adjustments are needed to your plan. Make sure you’re constantly monitoring for oncoming threats, challenges, issues or even new opportunities so you can respond and plan for them appropriately.
I get it - this level of planning and innovating can take a lot of time. But imagine how much time you’ll save, how many resources you’ll save, how much revenue you can hold on to (or grow) when changes come and you’re already prepared.
One of the best books I’ve read this year that can help you, and your team, be on the same page of how you’re prepared is Michael Hyatt’s The Vision Driven Leader. A clear vision can help you know how you need to innovate to stay ahead so that you're always prepared. If a clear vision can do that, imagine what it can do for your entire business. You can pick up The Vision Driven Leader here.
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