‘Plan Ahead’ and the ‘Next Normal’

When drowning in a daily ‘sea’ of new information, reacting to new data, managing the change to work patterns or indeed no ability to operate at all, you’d be forgiven for not adding to your already challenging day by diverting some attention to ‘Plan Ahead’ and the ‘Next Normal’ – whatever that is.

But like most business leaders or owners what’s next is never far away from your thoughts.

You’ve got to grips with your Business Resilience Plan and you’re leading your Crisis action team and specifically you’re spending a huge amount of your time on both internal and external communication. If you wondered what leadership was all about before, well now you really know.  And it’s the same for all of us in one shape or another.  I certainly found myself in the mind-set of “there’s no point in worrying what’s over the hill until you’ve worked out how you’re getting everyone to the top” but when does that mind-set need to change?  Thanks to a very well-crafted and timely McKinsey article (“Getting ahead of the next stage of the coronavirus crisis”) I was able to take the thinking and overlay it on the questions I’d been pondering:-

  • How am I going to navigate us out of this?
  • Where are we now?
  • How will I make sure we’re ready?
  • What will our business look like in twelve months?

This takes you to a whole different space in which you need to get separation between the team you’ve deployed to “just focus on keeping the wheels turning right now” and create a new team which you can scale up over time to run down the scenario planning, starting with where you are now. When I eventually got my head around this -and particularly around how do I turn that into something that works in our business – it actually didn’t seem so bad.  We’ve spent the last eighteen months understanding agile methodology, looking at the interaction of agile with our digital strategy and adopting it into our everyday working lives. When the Board decided to close the office just before ‘lockdown’ we just moved everyone into the WFH environment and continued to manage the teams with stand-ups and agile sprints, with Kanbans and backlogs and the teams all got to work in a different way but with the ‘tools’ in place to help.  Of course there was an element of nervousness around the scale of the change and the pressure on the infrastructure, tech and capacity but this was largely unfounded. Our support teams were ready to ‘support’ in a different way the same way as the client teams were ready to continue to deliver client work in a different way. The actions and reactions across all parts of our business to this change were fantastic and really demonstrated the commitment by the teams to each other and the firm as a whole; #inittogether@aab.

Roll forward a few weeks and the same is true for what you need to do with the ‘Plan Ahead’ team.  What this will allow everyone to do is:-

  • Gather data from a number of reliable sources accepting that this will change or evolve as the world changes;
  • Understand and develop various strategies based on possible outcomes using the data;
  • Recognise when a particular strategy seems to be playing out;
  • Make quicker decisions based on what we’ve modelled;
  • Know what we need to do and have an action plan ready to implement; and
  • Identify how to get something better out of the pain we’ve been through.

A lot of this is what we already do when working in an advisory capacity with clients. And through this approach we’ll hope to be on a firm footing with whatever the ‘next normal’ is.  But don’t forget, you still need to deal with the crisis action plan now taking advantage of Government measures around Job Retention/Tax Payment Deferrals and the more complicated to put in place including The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans and others.

With such uncertainty today no-one knows what tomorrow will look like or who will and who will not survive this.  What I do know is, that we all need to do everything we can to survive and its likely to be a long road, but by recognising now that we need to ‘plan ahead’ as a firm, we’ll be better placed than we would have otherwise.

So what’s next for you…..are you going to take the next step and begin to plan ahead for the ‘next normal’?

If you would like to discuss any of the points mentioned above please contact Graeme Allan or your usual AAB Contact.