The sky is falling. The sky is not falling. We are doomed. We are fine. Confused? You are not alone. The economic roller coaster of September, 2008 presents unique challenges. We simply do not know what exactly is going to happen and that uncertainly is paralyzing our economy. It is also paralyzing managers. McCain and Obama are campaigning for change; you need to campaign for a plan--a plan that answers the question, “What if?”
Businesses all over the world are worrying about what might happen. But, now is not the time to worry; now is the time to develop a plan. In the Marines, we did contingency planning. We would pick the three most-likely scenarios for a situation we were facing, and then develop plans for each one. Our job was to execute at a moment’s notice. We planned while we had time, and then implemented one of those plans based on the situation we finally did face. Rather than agonizing about impending doom, I suggest you gather your team and answer the following three questions:
Planning and answering these questions will help you in the following important ways:
First, it will give your team confidence. Inaction breeds fear. Action creates energy and gives people a sense of control over their destiny. You will be exercising leadership, and that is exactly what your employees want. When the House of Representatives failed to pass the bailout bill on September 29, citizens nationwide decried the lack of leadership in Washington. You need to lead today. More than ever, your people want to know the score, and they want you to tell them about it.
Second, answering the above questions will allow you to be more flexible and able to respond quicker to your clients. When it comes time to act, you will be ready. Other firms will be just beginning their planning, while you will already have a plan in place. You will get the “first movers” advantage. This can put new money in your pocket or allow you to keep the money you already have.
The process is what matters. These contingency conversations are not lunchroom chatter or filler at a staff meeting. They are written plans that you create, refine, record, and store for use. They’re like the fire extinguisher in the glass case: ready when you need it.
One of the axioms of military combat is, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” Some would use that as an excuse to not plan. “Why bother? It is going to change anyway.” But, the smarter business leader knows that the power is in the planning, not in the plan. That’s where you learn, where you think ahead, brace for the worst, and work together to achieve a goal. The plan will change but you will be ready for whatever you face because you asked the question, “What if?”
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