We Did It Before – Can We Do It Again?

To survive this crisis, your focus should be on surviving the next crisis.

When you look back on changes in a business, you see the point where one effort stopped and another effort began. Often the stopping point of one effort and the starting point of a different effort is not recognized. In most businesses changes develop re-actively and without notice, much less documentation. Most businesses cannot identify the decisions that made them have success. However, in a business with implemented planning procedures, the decision and, more importantly, the method will be recognized and documented.

In the typical private business without planning implemented, the business reacts to outside forces – economic or otherwise. Especially in a crisis, actions will be taken in response to factors outside the business after the business has been affected by those factors. Those in the “rather be lucky than good” category survive, and most others do not. The lucky ones may understand after the fact why they made it, but they probably cannot replicate the success.

There are successful businesses that are successful not so much for what they do, but because of how they do it. The essence of this success is a decision-making policy. The policy reinforces what is known about making good decisions and insuring that those elements are observed with each decision. When a goal is set or revised, it is done in accordance with that policy.

The elements of a good decision policy: appropriate knowledge, efficient utilization of time, involvement of a group of the right people (informed, independent, and affected), communication of decisions, monitor the effects of the decision, and revise as appropriate. Contrast the elements of a good decision policy to the elements of planning: set a goal, communicate the goal, establish actions to meet the goal, monitor the actions, revise the goal as necessary. A good decision-making policy is the foundation for implementing an effective and successful planning process. Planning done without good decision-making will not be planning that results in business success.

Unlike the business without planning that reacts to outside factors, a business with effective planning implemented will continually make decisions about the course of the business by setting goals, identifying and executing actions taken to meet the goals, and revising the goals as appropriate. The continuity of the decision-making enforces the quality of the decisions. The question is constantly asked what are we doing that is working and what are we doing that is failing? The start and stop is documented. What works is continued and what does not work is not pursued. However, the group effort does not stop with analysis and evaluation of actions taken, there is also the perspective of contingent events – what will occur at some unknown time in the future.

Given a number of foreseeable contingent events, is there a way to plan for a contingent future event? No one can predict the future, but the effective business system can anticipate and survive a crisis. The question is not so much asking: what exactly will happen? It is asking: given that there will be contingent events from a number of possible sources that will cause stress to the business, how can we establish redundancy in production, not be dependent on sole resources, avoid single customer markets, and be aware of impending events? The specific nature of the crisis cannot be predicted, but the stress of the crisis will affect certain predictable aspects of the business.

A crisis will change markets. By definition, a business must have a market to survive. A crisis changing a market will require new decision-making. A business without a decision-making group and without implemented planning will have a difficult time making the new required decisions. The business with implemented planning will be experienced in making decisions and will have anticipated a stress solution for the business.

If your business is one of the majority of businesses without implemented planning, do not just react to the events of the current crisis. Create a decision-making group. The first task of the group will be to create a decision-making policy to be followed for every substantive decision affecting the business. Owners of the business will articulate their values with respect to the business and set goals through the decision-making policy. With the decision-making group, the executive officers should identify and execute actions to meet the stated goals as well as the methods of monitoring the progress of those actions toward meeting the goals. As experience is gained with meeting the goals, unreasonable (unattainable) goals should be revised so that they are attainable in a reasonable period of time. With this structure implemented, the business will find a way to have success now and do it again to survive the next crisis.