Survive and Thrive- Managing Crisis Response

Will You Survive and Thrive? Or...?  

Our portfolio of offerings affords us the opportunity to work with clients whose businesses are healthy but are looking to stay on top of their industry. They employ our services because they are proactively seeking solutions to continually improve and progress all areas of their business from product engineering, process engineering and design, supply chain, program management, and launch. However, a good portion of our engagements originate because a business or operation has spiraled out of control and is in a “life or death” crisis. The client faces the challenge of recovering the business expediently or run the risk of significant losses, including loss of customers, personnel, and possibly even the entire business.

In these crisis scenarios, our first goal is to stop the “bleeding” and recover key performance indicators associated with customer satisfaction. But our work cannot stop there; in addition to forcing an immediate and positive impact, it is even more important to build a foundation of success for the sustainable future of the operation.  All too often however, once some measure of stabilization is achieved, business leaders prematurely declare success and move to reduce costs, including removing external support like our own firm. The longer-term view of continued value generation is immediately forgotten, thereby guaranteeing the problem will return again – usually quite soon. In other words, our assignment is often ended prior to the foundation being effectively addressed. To be clear we share the same desire that our clients do regarding our presence: not to remain beyond what is necessary. The key difference is in the understanding of “necessary.”  It is this question that we want to consider and provide our insight. 

Let’s ask the question in another way - Why do some of our clients continue to survive and thrive and others begin to digress once we depart?  To achieve success, we deploy a proven set of tools and processes that not only generate immediate impact but can and should serve as the foundation of long term positive outcomes. The transition from short term success to long term success directly depends on a mindset of discipline, commitment to problem-solving, and rigorous follow up in the plant’s culture. 

    This cultural shift can only occur if a leadership team and organization is aligned and committed to the continued building of the foundation.  The aligned leadership team practices the same discipline expected from those operating the lines and equipment.  It acts with a strong sense of urgency and is committed to supporting and ensuring the success of its employees.  The leaders know exactly where the operation is going and have a well-defined plan of how to get there.

Building a Successful Foundation

This level of cohesiveness, unity, and clarity requires intentional and purposeful effort. We have never seen it naturally materialize through luck. We highly recommend to our clients that until these cultural characteristics become evident we continue with our engagement. During this continuation, we focus on strengthening and training the leadership team in the foundational areas of lean leadership and behaviors, lean tools, vision/mission, leader standard work, policy/KPI deployment, daily management, etc. Our experienced staff of operational experts have developed core training modules in each of these respective areas. The training modules focus lightly on theory and heavily on practical application and realization. Each one has specific and actionable outcomes that require the engagement and participation of the leadership team. In most cases, we work alongside leadership to coach and mentor them through the prescribed tools and processes.

Those clients who commit and see our prescribed process to the end are the ones who enjoy an extremely high success rate and continue to return positive operational results for years to come. Those clients who take the short-sighted route are typically the ones we receive frantic calls from to once again return and recover the operation – to finish what we started. In our experience, the costs to the business for the second, short-sighted approach is normally between 5X and 10X the costs of the former approach. 

So, we leave you with the same thought as we started: After a crisis will you be positioned to continue to survive and thrive or will you again cycle back and digress to the same old habits that precipitated the original crisis?  As the adage goes – don’t be penny-wise and dollar foolish. In the end, the costs of not ensuring a firm foundation far exceed the costs for doing it right in the first place.

Richard Payne is an Engagement Manager for Seraph with over 20 years of crisis management and turnaround experience. He applies his depth of knowledge to help Seraph clients avoid future disruptions and drive success through meticulous planning, training, and leadership coaching. 

05 March 2020