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Transforming Your Thinking From Crisis to Opportunity

Aug. 21, 2020
The pandemic has likely brought to light problems that existed in your organization for a long time but went unaddressed.

The pandemic continues to create a ripple effect across every industry. In addition to the staggering revenue declines, loan defaults and job losses, COVID-19 has uniquely impacted supply chain management. In the beginning, it induced simultaneous and sudden drops in both supply and demand, resulting in deflation and creating a negative spiral, presenting new challenges for supply chain leaders. By mid-March, more than 75% of companies reported significant disruptions to their supply chains. In response, many have had to revisit supply chain fundamentals related to inventory, procurement, manufacturing and distribution and customers.

As we continue to push through the everyday challenges toward an uncertain future, it’s important to realize that times of crisis bring opportunity. Through this experience, leaders are motivating and mobilizing people. They’re getting to know the people who make their businesses work and gaining a real understanding of how things could be done a little better when this is over.

I’ve spent the majority of my career helping companies navigate change. I can say with certainty that embracing change, especially with little time to prepare, is not easy. Most of the change we encounter as leaders occurs in relatively slow motion compared to what we are dealing with today. We typically have time to think through the drivers of change, identify possible solutions and plan; yet, the rapid change we’ve faced this year has required us to adapt almost instantaneously.

As a leader, you likely made it through the height of the crisis by leveraging contingency plans and the resources at your disposal. When things begin to stabilize, you’ll need to evaluate and acknowledge where you’ve been and turn your focus to planning for the future. This transition presents the opportunity for an honest assessment of vulnerabilities in your organization, pre-pandemic gaps that needed to be corrected, and changes you were contemplating before the crisis hit. While the pandemic has magnified many issues, it has likely brought to light problems that existed in your organization for a long time but went unaddressed.  

Our natural tendency as humans is to repair what we perceive to be broken, sometimes at the expense of finding the root cause. Unfortunately, this siloed approach won’t help you make a significant leap forward—one that redefines your company or industry. I suggest that, instead of thinking about the crisis in isolation, you identify all of the issues that have held your business back, regardless of their timing. With this reflection and understanding, you’ll be ready for more meaningful transformation.

If turning what you’ve learned into action feels overwhelming, I recommend utilizing the three-step approach I detailed in my book on business transformation, 6,000 DreamsThis method can help set you on the right path.

First, create a vision of the improved state of your business. This vision should allow you to clearly articulate your ideas in a way that is held to the boundaries of time and space.  

Second, articulate the current state of your business into a clear description. Focus on both the positives and the negatives of your current reality. Being truly honest and objective in this exercise is critically important when establishing the current state. Third, explore the gap or contrast between where you are today and where we want to be in the future. Too often, we burden ourselves with the weight of reality and perception; we self-censor our inclination and ideas with objections. It’s important to redefine the reality in which you are operating and stay open to new possibilities, known by psychologists as cognitive reframing. This broader way of viewing and experiencing events, ideas, concepts and emotions allows you to find more positive alternatives.

With a clear vision for the future, everyone aligned to reaching the objective and openness to the journey ahead, the only obstacles are your courage, your willingness to act and your tenacity to battle unforeseen roadblocks. Your primary role as a leader is to help everyone adapt to the changing circumstances as they unfold and move the process and people forward in accomplishing the transformation. Yes, it’s a difficult task, but if you have a green light to go forward with the process, it’s time to step on the gas. Don’t let tactics get in the way of strategy. It is a lot more important that you clearly know where you want to go than it is to know how you’ll get there. When your purpose is clear, others will contribute the resources, talent and expertise to help define the tactics.

It can be easy to fall back into old patterns. It’s natural to think there is plenty of time to make a change or initiate a transformation, until there isn’t. There will never be a right time to transform your business, but you’ll never have a better catalyst than you have today.

Edwin Bosso, founder and CEO of Myrtle Consulting Group, is a specialist in business transformation, operations improvement, and change management. He has spent the last 25 years delivering transformation results for some of the world’s largest brands—Kellogg, AB InBev, Abbott, Morton Salt, Heineken, and T-Mobile, among others. He is the author of 6,000 Dreams: The Leader's Guide to a Successful Business Transformation Journey (ForbesBooks).

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