30 March, 2020 | Category

Having spent the past couple of weeks helping our clients to navigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, one theme stood out to us. Whilst some are in a state of panic (and understandably so for those in the most effected sectors), it is the companies with high accountability cultures that are navigating these challenging times best.

This article summarises the principles that the highest accountability companies are using to not just survive the COVID-19 pandemic, but also be ready to rebound strongly on the other side:

1. Talk to your customers

Call them every week. Ask them where the need help. Add value. Use your conversations as a source of market intelligence.

2. Use your Purpose as a north star

A clear purpose acts as a north star – enabling decisions to be made within a shared context. This is especially important when dealing with unusual dilemmas that your company may not have faced before. A clear purpose also provides leaders with a consistent ‘anchor point’ to use when communicating key messages, telling stories and celebrating successes.

3. Be guided by core values

The COVID-19 pandemic is the moment of truth for your core values. Strong cultures, where core values are ‘lived’, allow teams to stay together in the face of a challenge (whilst others start to blame, criticise and fall apart).

4. Treat cash as king

Make your cash flow position and cash flow principles a key part of your discussions with leaders. In many companies revenue has been impacted, imposing cash flow constraints. Cash flow should be a weekly, if not daily, KPI. If you experience a negative cash flow, you may consider using the date that your company hits a cash crisis point as a KPI. Every action may impact that date, making it earlier or later – and create a sense of urgency.

5. Focus on a few important KPIs and Objectives

Most of our clients are just about to execute their quarterly planning and set corresponding KPIs and Objectives. There is no time for lag indicators in times of crisis. Companies can identify and use meaningful lead indicators will be best placed to respond to this a fluid and fast changing situation. We recommend fast changing KPIs to create as fast a feedback loop as possible. Suggested KPIs include cash flow, contacts with customers, employee feedback and confidence of the leadership team. Keep an opportunities board where you can ‘file’ great ideas for execution post-pandemic.

6. Shorten your execution periods to remain agile

Most of our clients run on a quarterly or tri-annual operating cycle over the course of the financial year. This may need to change to suit these unprecedented times. Practically, this may mean dropping now-redundant KPIs and Objectives and defining new short-term KPIs and Objectives. We’re seeing companies temporarily change their operating cycle down to one or two months (instead of a quarter) and ramping up meeting frequency to suit.

7. Your operating rhythm is more important than ever

During a crisis it doesn’t take much to lose your discipline – and along with that, your operating rhythm. Don’t be that company. Don’t skip meetings. Don’t lose your shape. If working remote, adapt your agendas, timing, duration and meeting frequency to suit your platform. If you’re not already doing so, consider adding a short daily huddle. If you’re already doing a daily huddle, consider a second daily huddle at the end of the day to bookend the day.

Maintaining your High Performance Operating System during this period

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified on a daily and even hourly basis – calling for an unprecedented combination of focus and agility from leaders.

Being disciplined enough to stick to these principles and a high-cadence communication and operating system during the COVID-19 pandemic will ensure that your company stays focused on the KPIs and Objectives that are most important for both short and long term success – whilst enabling your leadership team to remain agile and responsive to the many challenges and opportunities that these unusual times will present.

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