Responding to business problems is not easy. Managing business problems and crises are nothing new. This article discusses things you can do to be adaptive and respond quickly to your business problems. There are a number of things you can do to be adaptive and respond quickly to your business problems. Your response should come down to 7 actions:
- Control your mind
- Understand the situation
- Set priorities
- Isolate your options
- Create a plan
- Get prepared and attack
- Manage the information war
It is crucial that you give your mind the chance to process what’s happening and to take control of the situation. Focused efficiency is critical in a time of crisis. Hence, leaders need to prioritise the problems they are facing and, in an emergency, there is usually no time to make perfect plans.
Respond to business problems by leading your business
Sooner or later, you will come across a severe business problem or encounter some crisis or emergency. Some problems are more serious. Others less so and others are extremely dangerous. The smallest of issues can disrupt business and create stress and anxiety. Usually, when do proactive thinking and look forward, you will be better prepared for any problem.
Yet, many events are challenging to anticipate, and they will take you by surprise. Great leaders, like yourself, excel. While poor managers go into panic mode, are irrational, and make poor decisions. Regardless of the size or timing of any crisis or emergency, there are consistent steps you can do to contain a problem, reduce the harm it may cause your team. As follows:
1. Control your mind
The first thing you must do when faced with a problem is to create a clear mind and be composed. To take control of the situation, you need to pause and relax and make sure you can see the situation through the fog of war. Even when the walls are collapsing around you, try and think rationally. It goes against all your natural instincts which are telling you to fight or flight. If you do neither you freeze. Seek objective guidance from someone not involved in the problem to give you a different perspective.
As the fictional hero, Jack Reacher explains, going for the guys gun in a panic will get you killed. “So stay alive for the next minute and see where you are.” Slow down and assess the situation, reason away from the chaos.
2. Understand the situation
Once your mind is in the right place, the next thing is to create a brief and concise description of the problem you are facing. Describe the problem, without going too deeply into the why’s or, critically, who is to blame for the problem.
- Who are the parties involved?
- What is affected?
- Where is the problem happening?
- When did you first know about the problem?
- Why is it a problem?
The answers to these questions will bring the situation you are facing into perspective, giving you a realistic and accurate understanding of whats going on. Also, no one ever said “I wish I did’nt know that piece of vital information before I made that important decision” All problem-solving projects must be lead with great Intelligence and insight.
A rational description of the situation should calm your mind and allow you to develop a well thought out action plan.
3. Set priorities
You are likely to be facing more than one problem or crisis, so setting priorities requires efficiency and focus. Answering these questions is essential to set your priorities:
- What’s extremely important to resolve first?
- What’s time-sensitive?
- What objective information can we gather?
- How serious is the problem?
- How urgent is the problem?
- How fast are things moving?
- And is the problem going to get worse?
- Will this problem trigger other problems?
- Finally, could this problem/crisis be an existential threat?
4. What are your options?
Once you understand the priorities of the, you are in a position to formulate your options. The choices you can make with the resources you have to hand and the outcomes you need to resolve the crisis. Defining your desired results will narrow your options down. Allowing you to focus more on the strategic detail required and the rights and wrongs of each choice to resolve things.
5. Create the plan
In a crisis, there is no time to make perfect plans. This is usually down to not having sufficient Intelligence to make an ideal decision. The more Intelligence you have, the better the plan. Depending on the situation you find yourself, you may need to find a temporary quick fix—a fix to buy you more time to find a more sustainable solution. Allocate and deploy resources, produce the action plan, define who is responsible for each role and, and prioritise the required actions.
6. Get ready and then attack
You have the plan ready. It’s now time to take action and build a consistent pace in attacking the problem or crisis. Ensure you have a few indicators within the plan to ensure you know if the plan is working or failing.
Armies around the world consider an ambush as a crisis. However, soldiers do not sit around building a plan to tackle the rain of fire which is pinning them down in their positions. They don’t do the planning at the ambush site because they have decided before leaving camp as many of the potential pitfalls and disasters they could face. Within the finest armed forces in the world, the British Army describe them as “Actions on”. In this case:
- “Actions on ambush” – We will return fire and withdrawn to the final RV”
- “Actions on enemy fire we will return fire and suppress the enemy to enable us to carry on with our mission.”
More information can be found on Actions on in our other article entitled military intelligence lessons
Concentrate your time, energy, and resources on the most critical actions. The actions which will give you time and release the pressure you are under. Also, never get side tracked by a new keep new problem.
Any plan goes out of the window upon contact with the enemy. A true statement, but if you take your actions and complete one at a time, you can keep on plan as close as possible. And hopefully, you will have issued an “Actions On” statement to protect the plan. Keep your team on point and keep them motivated and informed on progress. Good news and actions result in positive feedback. Celebrate breakthroughs and maintain hope. And remember share what’s happening with your team even when the news isn’t great.
7. Manage the information war
Message management is an essential aspect of problem-solving, especially when your problem is crisis management. Without messages, people will be fearful and assume the worst.
- Watch out for fast-spreading misinformation and rumours
- What’s reported. And who to and by whom?
- Understand how much information to share
- And how are you going to share the message
- What are the needs of your audience?
Respond to business problems by defining what messages which need frequently repeated – think “stay at home, protect the NHS and Save lives” and also “See it? Say it, Sort it”. You know these annoying, but effective messaging.
Expect the unexpected, understand that problems can range from utter carnage to something very minor. Managing these situations and the people involved is part of a leaders role. You don’t know when the next crisis is coming, but you will survive, and you will know what to do. So, take action using the suggested format discussed by controlling your mind, understanding the situation, setting priorities, isolating your options, creating a plan, getting prepared, attacking and managing the information war.