We live in chaotic times. There is no need to list the causes; every business owner can name four or six mind-boggling issues that have cropped up in the past couple of years. Here are a few tips for getting through the next wave, onslaught, surge, development or reversal.
Stop expecting things to return to normal
“Business as usual” just isn’t anymore. We will not be returning to pre-COVID or pre-supply-chain-meltdown. We are not going back to the good old days when all it took to find new employees was a box ad in the newspaper.
Shane Grant, CEO of Danone North America, summed up the situation. “As we go into 2022, I think it’s this theme of just volatility, and it’s not one particular type of volatility,” Grant said. “It’s enormous volatility in our supply chain. It’s everything from input availability, capacity, transportation, labor, it’s COVID adaptations by ways of working adaptation.”1
The only available direction is forward. Stop expecting normalcy; start expecting an ever-dynamic situation with lots of moving parts.
Given the state of things – fluid and full of surprises – cultivate keen perception, flexibility and nimble reactions. What are the conditions right now? How can one react to meet this moment?
Ditch the grand plan
What was set in stone yesterday is likely to be crumbled today.
Setting an annual plan and attempting to will it into fruition may be folly in the 2020s, the decade to be remembered as “when the wheels came off entirely.”
With the experts repeatedly pushing back the prediction for when the supply chain will fall back into working order, it is nearly impossible to orchestrate a business plan around continuously out-of-reach “firm commitments.” A six-month horizon or even quarterly targets might now make more sense than trying to stick with an annual plan.
Pivot as required; repeat as needed
When the only way to is through – and through a vast unknown to boot – hurdles must be leapt and course corrections must be made, and probably frequently.
Let go of laser focus on a fixed path. Learn to change one’s mind, given the tumultuous nature of one’s circumstances. Change is hard. Change is good. The only constant is change.
In “The Big Vaccine Pivot: Merck Falters on COVID-19 Shots, Then Makes One for Rival J&J,”2 author Jared Hopkins describes how after Merck scrapped its development of a COVID-19 vaccine, the pharma manufacturer made a huge pivot: It partnered with rival Johnson & Johnson to produce that company’s successful vaccine.
Practice the ability to tack with the changing winds. Loosen up. Zig and then zag and then, oops, zig again. Accept that the path and the destination may morph dramatically.
Admit and embrace uncertainty
Right now, more than ever, the future is unknown and unpredictable. No one’s crystal ball is working these days; everyone’s stock answer, spoken or unspoken, is “I don’t know.”
Musical artist Adele recently ‘fessed up to fans about dozens of concerts that had to be rescheduled. “We’ve been absolutely destroyed by delivery delays and COVID,” said Adele. “Half my team have COVID, and it’s been impossible to finish … I’m really embarrassed and I’m so sorry … We’ve been up against so much and it just ain’t ready.”3
Demand may surge or it may tank entirely. There may be more layoffs or there may be a big push to staff up. Right now, we are all in the same boat as Adele. If “It just ain’t ready” or “I don’t know” is the honest truth, say it.
Fraternize, organize, strategize, mobilize
They say that politics makes for strange bedfellows. In the 2020s, they say that doing business during absolutely crazy times makes for unexpected ad-hoc partnerships.
The competitors in one’s geographic region might be the best companies with which to partner for sharing material source ideas – to give everyone alternate choices – or for buying together in quantity to get better prices.
Reach out to a rival in proximity, and see how two companies, like two heads, might be better than one.
Stop wishing. Hang loose. Change before you have to. Tell it like it is. Competition makes us faster; collaboration makes us better.
- Rosenbaum, Eric. “CEOs across the market, economy agree on one 2022 prediction: More volatility, no end to COVID.” December 2, 2021. www.CNBC.com. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/12/02/ceos-across-economy-agree-on-one-big-2022-prediction-more-volatility.html.
- Hopkins, Jared S., “The Big Vaccine Pivot: Merck Falters on COVID-19 Shots, Then Makes One for Rival J&J.” Dec. 11, 2021. www.wsj.com. https://www.wsj.com/articles/merck-jj-covid-vaccines-ship-11639161192
- Kalita, S. Mitra, “It’s Time to Pull an Adele at Work.” January 25, 2022. www.time.com. https://time.com/charter/6141697/pull-an-adele/