COVID-19: Will it define us?

The COVID19 humanitarian crisis should always ensure our focus and compassion is with our fellow human beings who have suffered terrible loss in such a short period of time, and this is rightly so.

There is, however, another ‘victim’ of this pandemic, our economy. Our political leaders have taken unprecedented steps to ensure short to medium term remedy, which will undoubtedly have long term impact.

While our fantastic medical professionals take on the huge challenge of saving lives, it is Merlin’s opinion that our business community has a lead role in tackling ‘head on’ the task of resurrecting our economy as soon as is practically possible.

To paraphrase Lord Kitchener: Your Economy Needs You.

During this crisis, there is little doubt that there is an absolute need for Business Leaders to seek the help of their professional advisers. There are lots of great examples of advisers coalescing around business communities to offer help.

However, ultimately it is the role of Business Leaders to make DECISIONS and there is no one better placed to know your business, culture, market, competitors and so on. That is, after all, why you are in the role you are in.

We at Merlin think our role in all of this is to help, where we can, Business Leaders make the best decisions to manage the impact of COVID-19 and adapt Operating Models to set up for success.

With spare capacity due to client projects being cancelled or deferred, in these unprecedented times we’d love to make ourselves available, at our own cost, to Business Leaders who need to make these decisions.

Areas where we are currently sharing / tailoring pragmatic and practical tools with Business Leaders and helping apply them in their context: 

1. COVID19 impact on your business – a robust, pragmatic and honest review of this external stimulus, or otherwise, to your business. A means of getting to ‘tough decisions’ or identifying opportunities that may define the future of your business.

2. Based on 1) above, YOUR impact on your business – the speed of COVID19 may have caught a lot of Business Leaders off-guard and forced knee jerk, short term decisions that may not ordinarily have been taken. Adapting and using ‘Failure Modes and Effect Analysis (FMEA) will help Business Leaders understand the Impact of Decisions, when/how often they may feel the Impact, how they will identify it and, most importantly, how they can potentially mitigate it. For example,

  1. Avoiding Creditors calls
  2. Laying off key team members
  3. Signing – when it is possible to do such – the lease on a new office.

Merlin are happy to help explain the use of these tools (and others) further, if required, and would also offer that now more than ever, when normal day job routine is most likely to be interrupted, is the time when you have time to determine the future or your business.

Once done, this then leads to what next? what will my business look like? how will we operate? What skills/technology/data will I require?  This will take you a long way towards developing your Crisis Recovery Strategy.

3. So, what is the new Normal? – by using Target Operating Model (TOM) methodology in its simplest form, you can determine what you may have to change to adapt your business to set up for success. By de-layering your business, the task of making change becomes much more focussed and only touches those layers that will require change. If, for example, Working from Home (WFH) becomes the new normal for your employees, what does that mean?

  1. Managing 20 remote workers is very different from managing 20 office workers
  2. Is your leadership team set up for the new normal?
  3. How will your clients react to a new ‘channel’?
  4. Do you have the technology, and how do you share relevant information/data?
  5. How do you maintain security?

4. COVID-19 Recovery Project Plan – Having understood, per above, what needs to be done, ‘Plan for Success’ and coalesce all your staff around a well thought through, rapid recovery Project Plan.

A lot to consider. Yes undoubtedly, however, you most likely have the opportunity NOW to determine your business future and play your role in ensuring our Economy can be as robust as possible, as fast as possible.

This is a call to action, so let’s get moving in a pragmatic and practical fashion. We would love to help in any way we can.

Business Diagnostic

Take a Step Back!

While there is no substitute for great, hands-on Executive management in any business, there is an argument to say that sometimes you can just get too close, become too involved in the day-to-day and not have time, or inclination, to step back and steer the ship.

How many times, as an Executive, do you go home at the end of the week feeling totally drained, having put in too many hours, not really feeling that you have achieved much, and with some ‘homework’ to boot.

  • Is that your life?
  • Do you recognise your business?
  • Are you simply too involved in the day-to-day running?
  • If so, then ask yourself, WHY?

There have been so many occasions in my Consulting career where I have been hired to become the crutch of the exhausted Executive who is ‘living the dream’ above.

Great job, well rewarded, no work-life balance, and no real understanding why the ‘job’, with their innate, well proven ability and skills, simply takes so much of their time.

We help Executives in this situation by carrying out a short, broad but shallow Business Diagnostic to uncover the reasons why so much ‘work’ is going on beyond what is actually required to run the business. In most cases, this falls into the category of ‘Failure Demand’, where a large percentage of ‘work’ is created within the business and becomes ‘the way we do things around here’, offering no value to Clients, or Shareholders.

This usually falls into a couple of categories;

  • In technical ‘lean’ terms, this will come from a plethora of wastes – under the “Seven Wastes of Lean” philosophy.
  • However, it can also be cultural, where the ‘norm’ is to escalate ‘issues’ to the highest level in the organisation – usually the aforementioned overworked Executive – for resolution. In most cases, the root cause of this lies with the Executives themselves, as they have permitted this to take shape and, perhaps, see their role as ‘Master Fire Fighter’ with the skills, experience and aptitude to resolve anything that is escalated in their direction.

As long as that continues, be prepared to give up your weekends until your frustrations reach a level when you have simply had enough. Alternatively, take time, step back, get some help and understand WHY you are working so many hours and then put a plan in place to stop that ‘hamster wheel’.

A Business Diagnostic will highlight, in a very short period, the root causes of your 7 day weeks, develop a solution and help drive your business towards a more process managed, higher skilled, less costly environment that perhaps will offer you the time to determine strategic direction: the things you should be doing as opposed to fixing problems.

Our Diagnostic approach provides independent, trusted resources that will partner with you, share knowledge and offer practical insights to your business needs. We utilise experienced project team members to work on-site, where we can shadow and work with you and your teams’ so they are engaged and involved in the process. Our Diagnostic Report is detailed, underpinned by data, and uses internal and external best practice, identifying non-value costs, realistic cost efficiencies, business improvements including customer satisfaction and an organisation structure that is fit for purpose.

In a recent Diagnostic exercise with a well-known, international business services provider our Diagnostic Report identified a benefit-to-cost ratio of 14:1. This is an investment that can help you take control of the increasing frustrations that you are facing as an Executive.

If you would like to understand in more detail the benefits of a Business Diagnostic, we would be delighted to organise a presentation or video conference to talk through a case study with you and your Executive Team – please contact us directly by email.​

The Black Hole

Confronting bad news is part of the job for any self-respecting C-Suite Executive.

As consultants, we are often called upon when bad news breaks because, as independent professionals whose role exclusively is complex problem definition and solving for clients, we often see quickly and objectively how the situation has arisen and what must be done.

This does not imply that we are smarter than the average bear, or that the executive management teams are not. However, an objective eye may help clients get back on track faster and cheaper than perhaps they might otherwise – resolving vested interests and conflicts diplomatically (or otherwise as need be) along the way.

A “unique-to-them” corporate dilemma may be one which has been witnessed (and defeated) several times by external consultants elsewhere, thus by leveraging that experience of succinct problem definition and known successful solutions, we can deliver real value quickly.

So why does it happen?

Why do clients sometimes seem surprised to find themselves in a cost challenge position, or suddenly realise that sales are not happening as quickly or in the magnitude expected?

The Right Measures

In today’s data-rich world, when there is so much data captured and accessible, and the ability to mine it that data is “cheap-as-chips”, the prospect of being misled by the wrong or having key information buried is as dangerous as not having any data at all!

We often find that organisations (and sometimes whole sectors) are data rich and insight poor*. Linking the correct drivers to the real consequences allows remediation actions to be implemented and effect measured promptly. “The right measures lead to right measures”.

The Right Infrastructure

Evolved infrastructure (cost/systems/people) may have been perfectly relevant in a different time but may no longer be optimal for the current type or size of business or operations nor be scaleable (up or down) in the medium or long term.

An external perspective from professionals who are not invested in decisions of the past, can assist Executive Teams objectively implement a new model or organisational structure be more “fit for the future”.

The Right Change

Change is constant. Too much can swamp an organisation; too little leaves it behind the pack.

Executives need to balance the need for change alongside “keeping the show on the road”. Neither can exist in isolation as the business evolves to meet increasing demands – faster, cheaper, better.

External independent consultants help get the balance right – providing independent assessment of investment cases, reviews of hurdle rates, assurance of benefit realisation (likelihood and accrual) as well as bring change capability (solution design and implementation).

I think the value we bring to clients is that experience but with a fresh set of eyes on a ‘new’ problem. We harness that to help our clients only understand the symptom and the root causes and extract the data to help them make effective and timely corrective action.

The most rewarding projects I have led have helped the client uncover the root of the problem and discover what they must do about it; avoiding at all costs that feeling that consulting is being “done to them”. They often need help in delivering the solution, but when it is their solution, the value created is so much higher.

That we have (in all probability) experienced this before and, more importantly, resolved the issues helps clients realise that they can survive “the black hole” and they don’t need to tackle it alone.

If any of this resonates with you and the situation you face, let us provide insight and support. Contact us for a chat.