The new world order of COVID-19 has thrown up some significant challenges, some that most businesses were unprepared for. Innovation will be integral in many ways, shapes and forms. There will be many challenges and problems ahead, but over the coming days and weeks I will be taking you through a framework that we use and have adapted to support many organisations in these times.
During this time we need to Create Opportunities, Add Value and Innovate Daily. Where there are challenges there are also opportunities. This framework will support the process to manage the business as usual and use the gaps to find the opportunities for future growth. This is the time to lean in and lead with our values, not only the organisational values we ascribe to, but also our personal values. The key here is understanding the human centric worth of the organisation and not to be driven solely by the numbers on the bottom line. You get to define what your brand really stands for.
Innovation in a COVID-19 Environment
We can look to innovation to support the business in two ways; (1) focus on the work and ideas that can be used to create efficiencies, cost savings and opportunities to grow and adapt once the crises is over and we can move into a growth market; and; (2) an opportunity to focus on underutilised resources and/or different projects that haven’t been able to be completed.
Every news outlet and publication seem to be reporting daily on the number of people that have been let go, stood down or unable to work through this current time period. A quick look on LinkedIn and you will undoubtably see friends, colleagues or acquaintances who have lost their job and are looking for others. There are some companies who are in a fortunate and enviable position of being able cherry pick the best resources and pick them up for the projects and operational support delivery, and this will position them for growth. Whilst a majority of organisations will not be in this fortunate position, instead of focusing what they can no longer do, they can use this time to source and qualify the opportunities that they may not otherwise have been able to do.
Step One: Stabilise
First things first, some work needs to be done to prepare the organisation for innovation and utilisation of resources. Before the fun stuff can begin, we need to understand where and how we can focus our efforts, by gaining a comprehensive knowledge of all the current, planned and deferred work across all portfolios. This is going to sound like I am stating the bleeding obvious, and for most of you I am, but some core portfolio management work needs to be undertaken to establish the core program of work that is required to be undertaken to keep the lights on for the business.
The focus here is to stabilise and strengthen the core operational capability of the organisation. Stabilisation of a portfolio of work or organisation in challenging times is often a misunderstood and poorly implemented process. When done incorrectly, what ensues is an organisation that is not ready to put their foot back on the accelerator when the market starts to normalise.
This isn’t an opportunity to prop up unsustainable programs of work or ways of working that were inefficient and slow. Nor, is it the time to review budgets and programs of work based on arbitrary, percentage-based budget cuts. It may seem rational and logical to match large budget and program cuts in the business with the forecasted impact on the bottom line, but it often doesn’t have the desired result for the division and teams that are delivering these programs of work. It is more advantageous to remove entire projects or budget lines than taking chunks of the budget away, because we need to enable teams to deliver quality results that they’re proud of but also add value to the organisation. An all too common mistake is to remove a flat X% from each division, requiring projects and operational teams to find cuts and/or savings that may not be there. This can lead to the delivery substandard projects, incomplete implementation or a horse-trading style process to come out disparate programs of work that are focused on the needs of divisions/teams as opposed to the holistic needs of the organisation.
Lead with your personal values and the values that your organisation ascribes to. Focus on what you want your organisation to be in the future and who you want working in your business. It is likely that sacrifices may need to be made in relation to projects and programs of work that may need to be removed or put on hold to support the greater needs of the organisation. This is the opportunity to step up and think about putting the needs of the people and the organisation above projects that you may be emotively attached to.
To do this the easiest way is to examine the entire business plan line by line in excel to look through all of the agreed core projects that formed the strategy to support the long-term goals of the organisation. The next step would be to understand the progress and current stage of each project / line on the spreadsheet. If there were 200 lines of work in the business plan, it may be reasonable to see a minimum of half of these projects in an advanced stage or in delivery/implementation. The projects that are in an advanced stage or final stages of delivery can be excluded from this process.
Then you will be able to go through the remaining 100 or so other lines on the spreadsheet and do a deeper dive into understanding the requirements, timeframes and prioritisation of these projects. At this stage you will need to define or adjust a decision-making criterion to suit the adjusted market conditions, and it is recommended that it also includes the following:
Business confidence of ability to deliver
Skill sets and internal capability of resources required to complete the project
Availability of internal resources
Precedent and dependent projects that may need to be considered
Consideration to projects that will provide a platform for sustainable growth once the crisis starts to abate
Potential benefits for the completion and implementation of identified projects
Limit the knowledge and intellectual drain from the organisation by keeping and utilising our human resources for as long as possible
From this, an adjusted program of work can be established, and a portfolio stood up to support this. It can be a lite form of PMO with a standardised delivery framework, reporting and benefits process to co-ordinate the delivery of these projects. This can be a rudimentary and simplified delivery framework that is focused on consistency of process, reporting and delivery outcomes, as opposed to mandating a project management methodology.
The remaining projects that were not selected for this new program of work can be prioritised and listed in a backlog. If the time, resources and requirement occur these projects can then be brought forward into the program of work.
This first step is worth spending time on. This has been explained in a very simplistic manner but know this can a very difficult process to go through. Maintaining a stabilised program of work to support the people and values of an organisation today will be fundamental in surviving this market and being ready for growth when everything starts to normalise.
At GOYA Consulting we are helping a number of organisations lean in to the process and stabilise their organisations and where possible create the space for innovation to add value and growth opportunities. Based on your needs of your organisation we can support through:
Do It Yourself model with all of the frameworks and tools required to support your leadership, finance and operational teams
Do It With Me model to provide support and guidance until your team is ready to do it own their own
Do It For Me model with consultants that take on the key roles and manage the complete process if you don’t have the skills readily available
Talk to us about how we can support your organisation through the tough commercial realities of COVID-19….and create opportunities.
Ally Muller is the author of the soon to be released book Corporate Innervation: Unlocking the Genius Inside Your Organisation.