Time for spring business cleaning: What got it here won’t get it there
The writer

Time for spring business cleaning: What got it here won’t get it there

Over the past several months, global, regional, and country economic growth forecasts have been revised downwards several times. Businesses have to brace themselves for an impending storm. 

This is the second article in the series of articles on spring cleaning the business before the dark cloud envelops the business. Having considered how to re-energise the team, it’s time to look at the organisation.

Organisations start with a great mission, management capabilities, and supporting business models. 

Over time, these accumulate sludge and also need retooling.

The fast pace of business does not allow leaders to go back to the basics often enough to review why and how the business started.

This check-in is a valuable gift for any business. In the case of Delta Airlines, a crisis allowed them to examine their mission and values, management capabilities, and business model. This process led to a corporate revival. 

Be mission-driven and make bold moves

Leaders must have the courage to pursue the organisation's missions.

The business may not be able to enter new markets as planned but the overall mission of the business cannot be shelved as a result of the challenges in the environment.

The crisis may be an opportunity to make progress on some other important metrics which might have been ignored in the past. In some cases, expanding in existing and new markets is still possible. Motor racing legend Ayrton Senna once said, “You cannot overtake 15 cars in sunny weather…but you can when it's raining.”

Courage to take the right steps after careful analysis of the situation which takes into consideration the current harsh economic realities and tomorrow’s prospects is the only competitive advantage your organisation will have over others in the marketplace.

You can spring-clean your organisation by taking these three actions.

Refresh corporate aspirations, spring clean the lighthouse

Every organisation is defined by its mission and core values.

This is what gives the organisation light even in the darkest night, hence the right place to start your organisation’s spring cleaning.

You have to clean up the lighthouse (the organisation’s aspirations) so it shines brightly for all stakeholders to see, no matter how far adrift at sea they may be.

Leaders should support team members to renew their commitment to the organization’s mission. 

This requires hosting deliberate conversations with teams. Nothing should stop leaders from holding engaging conversations on the organization's purpose except that they have to do this differently and bring their best energy to it. 

Needing inspiration in a time of crisis, a manufacturer of medical devices unusually approached the issue.

The leaders invited patients who use their products and services to come in and share with staff how their lives have been transformed by the products the organisation makes. 

These engagements were very moving for staff. This drove home the point that their work is meaningful and needed in the world.

A renewed sense of purpose was followed by better financial performance. Supporting teams to find meaning in their work makes business sense.  

A storm may create discomfort and low energy in organizations but vigour and energy are vital resources leaders must bring to their leadership every day regardless of the weather.

So start reminding people of the mission, the reason why the organisation exists, and what makes it even more relevant in this time of crisis.

These conversations can be the rallying cry that’s needed for the organisation to surmount the challenges of today.

Embracing the mission ameliorates the distress associated with the situation and enables teams to do more with what they have.

The organisation’s values are also important and require spring cleaning.

However, this has to be done differently. Values are very personal and they show up in what people do every day.

Leaders must emphasise values that are relevant in this time and the subculture that must be created to take the organisation through this.

What does integrity, customer first, etc. mean in the light of current circumstances? Teams must be encouraged to reflect on how they can show up with these values at this critical moment in time.

Regular conversations about the values driving the value in the organisation will change how team members create value in the organisation in a remarkable way. Leaders must lead by example on this.

Rebuild management capabilities, spring clean the software

Organisations cannot avoid investing today in capabilities that are needed tomorrow even though the challenges of today weigh heavy on the mind.

No organisation can continue to exist without renewing its capabilities.

Sometimes, organisations undertake these changes when they are brought to their knees by competitor events.

Probably with a limited budget, you may not be able to undertake critical investments today but you can always review the management capabilities in place for delivering on your mission.

Management theory posits that management capabilities influence the implementation of strategies and the search for new options for growth and innovation in organizations. Management capabilities must be created consciously.

Some of the capabilities today, which were created some time ago, may not be suitable in today’s environment.

For example, you can review the firm’s meetings, decision-making, and information dissemination processes to ensure they generate the results expected and that there are no unintended consequences. Enhancing the organisation’s diversity quotient, level of cooperation, and trust, which have been acknowledged as critical elements of management capabilities prevents groupthinking and enables different perspectives and ideas to surface.

These are much needed in today’s challenging environment.

Reinvent the business model, spring clean the hardware 

The current economic crisis may have exposed flaws in your business model. This is the time to review your business model, reconfigure and make it fit for purpose and boldly explore new opportunities.

Probably a key supplier has shut down as a result of the economic challenges or the cost of a key raw material has become prohibitive.

It’s only when you accept the reality of the current situation and its ineffectiveness that you can make way for the new.

There is no need to hold on to a model that’s broken. Cut your losses and explore new areas of opportunity using the management capabilities and other resources of the organisation. 

No one can guarantee that the next couple of months will be smooth. No matter what happens, you have an opportunity to fix internal talent issues, serve customers better, review the business model, and even pursue your growth aspirations.

These actions can be pursued in good and bad times. The vital skill is the flexibility to practice a balanced mix of strategic speed and slow, and repeat the cycle.

Research on corporate activity during the recent economic crisis confirms that organisations that adopted this approach were ahead of their competitors who were slow in initiating and implementing ideas.

Actions taken in the first few months of any crisis are critical to an effective and speedy recovery. Take the opportunity and act now. 

The writer is a Leadership Development Facilitator, Executive Coach and Strategy Consultant, Founder of the CEO Accelerator Programme, and Chief Learning Strategist at TEMPLE Advisory. The mission of The Leadership Project is to harvest highly effective leadership practices and share them in a manner that other leaders can easily incorporate into their leadership practice. If you have got an idea or leadership practice to share, kindly write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Until you read from us again, keep leading…..from leader to leader, one practice at a time.

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