Crisis actions with strategic payoffs

Heroes - sBuilding great things on extraordinary foundations

Towards the end of last week, I offered free advice and sounding-board calls to all my current and prior clients for the duration of this crisis. (If you’re reading this and you need a free half-hour call, just drop me a note and we can try to arrange a time). The themes coming out of those calls so far have been incredibly consistent.

I’ll offer one anonymous example from earlier this week, not to embarrass the person concerned, but because I think every one of us will recognise something of ourselves in this.

The issue was falling income from their training and consulting services. I offered three bits of advice: pick the things that people need now more than ever; find a way of delivering them online; get your message out, at least to a portion of your audience, tomorrow, so you can get an immediate feel for the response.

“You need to move fast on this.” I explained, “Two weeks ago I’d never run a properly interactive workshop online. Last week I ran two of them.”

“Oh, we’re ahead of you on that one.” She replied, “Moving our training on-line has been part of the strategy since last year – we already have pilots planned for next month.”

Clearly, I’d failed to land my point, so I shared another example. Last Friday evening it occurred to me that most organisations are trying to find solutions to the same set of issues. On Saturday I floated the idea of a weekly CEO conference call to a handful of people in my network. On Sunday I sorted out the technology to do it. Invites and surveys for critical topics went out Monday morning. The first call is today with over 30 CEOs registered. She got the point.

Whether its home-working for flexibility or to reduce office costs; better communication and alignment across the exec; agility, resilience and bench-strength in the front-line teams; proper relationship-development and negotiation with commissioners; broader partnerships and alliances with other organisations; deepening contacts and engagement with donors.

Many of the most critical things on the crisis agenda right now are the same things that should have been on the strategic agenda in any event. The difference is that now there’s a critical urgency to smash through the barriers of culture and tradition, to break out of the politics and organisational treacle, to move at extreme pace on these things with unprecedented focus and commitment.

As I write, the stress on many of the organisations in our sector is unprecedented. And I am genuinely in awe of how so many of the people I know are visibly rising to the occasion, fearlessly leading and doing, far above and beyond any remotely reasonable expectation.

You are making an extraordinary difference every day, not just with your actions, but with the example you are setting. You are bringing out the best in all of us.

And as we move from this initial “crisis management” reaction, towards what has to become a more sustainable, future orientated response, we need to learn from the progress we’ve made; build on the change this situation has catalysed; and drive forward with every bit as much urgency and commitment, those huge strategic moves that we’ve plodded along on or danced around with for months, sometimes years.

We can do all this stuff, rapidly and comprehensively. This situation will pass, but how well we all recover from it will depend on our ability to keep living up to the examples we are setting today.

Some (up)dates for your diary:

  1. CEO Covid Roundtables will commence this morning (26th March) 8am-8:30am and run weekly for as long as there’s interest. This week’s topic is funding and income; next week is post-Covid planning, the following week is creating value from downtime. If you’re a charity CEO and you didn’t get the invitation but want to register, drop me a note.
  2. The Commercial Charity will be out in both paperback and electronic formats on 3rd April. The physical copy is available to pre-order now from Kogan Page (20% off using the code FMK20) or at Amazon, Waterstones, Smiths, Foyles and probably most others.
  3. The NCVO annual conference on 20th April has been postponed (new date TBC). I will be recording the presentation I would have given and making it available via my website.
  4. The Charity CEO Breakfast seminar, 28th April will go entirely online. Topic is collaboration and consolidation, from strategic partnerships to M&A. This is free but strictly for CEOs only. Contact me if you’d like to join us.
  5. The Coram event “an evening forum of charity and commerce” is currently under review. I will update all attendees once we make the call whether to take it online or postpone to the Autumn.
  6. Similar for the free morning seminar on developing and improving commercial performance which is currently planned for 20th We will make the decision closer to the time once we have a clearer view of how things sit.

Any questions on any of the above, just drop me a line.

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