Article provided by Nicky Little, director of leadership specialist Cirrus
As lockdown begins to ease in the UK, what are the most valuable lessons we have learned that we can take forward from this period of intense challenge and change?
Focus on what your customers need
From a strategic point of view, the most important thing you can do is to define your customer vision. Think about what your customers need and what you can do to provide value for them.
In practice this means zero-based planning and starting from scratch. Ask yourself, where should we start? What are our priorities? This approach helps us to reimagine how we might create maximum value in a totally different way.
Faced with interruption and upheaval, managers and leaders need to think disruptively. Disruptive thinking is about challenging our current assumptions to generate new ideas.
We have seen many businesses rethink their strategy in the face of the seismic change all around us. Respirators are rolling off the production lines of car manufacturers. Food wholesalers without restaurants to supply are delivering straight to consumers. Yoga teachers are coaching classes via Zoom.
Let go of old assumptions
Right now, leaders need to step back and let go of all our assumptions. It’s time to think the unthinkable. It is often helpful to let go of much that was precious in the old world in order to embrace the new. Leaders need to create an environment where employees can break free from previous plans and long-held beliefs and rethink what to focus on.
Situations like this demonstrate that detailed long-term plans simply don’t work in a world that is constantly changing. Be prepared to constantly tweak your plans, working in an agile way to adapt to ongoing change.
One thing that we are doing more at Cirrus, and which many of our clients are doing too, is being quite ruthless about what we prioritise. Focus on what’s important – the activities that are likely to have the most positive impact on your business performance. Bring together cross-functional virtual teams to focus resources on the few projects that will be most effective in turning your ideas into successful reality.
Being able to respond with competence as well as pace is important in this new world because your credibility is at stake if you get it wrong. You need to demonstrate fresh value to your customers so that your business remains relevant as the world continues to change.
Build more cross-functional teams
Cross-functional teams bring together a range of skills, ways of thinking, and experience, so that they can get moving and deliver good quality outcomes quickly. They need to be clear on their purpose, clear on their objectives, and able to decide for themselves how they deliver these objectives together. Aim for a minimum viable product, the simplest first cut of a new product or service, which you can then test with customers and get valuable feedback on, which will help you then focus on what your customers value most in the next round of work.
Through these teams you can cause a shift in culture across your organisation towards being more agile, more focused, and quicker in producing new products and services that meet the needs of your customers. Coming out of the crisis you can build real momentum because you are delivering what your people need, quickly.
About the author
Nicky Little is director of leadership specialist Cirrus.
Nicky works strategically in partnership with clients as a board-level facilitator and executive coach. She has created successful leadership programmes for many major organisations which have delivered lasting impact.
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