Obviously, these actions do not guarantee success, and are not all easy to implement. In the course of any attempt to return to the Safety Zone, your organization will face barriers such as those discussed next.
Avoid barriers to timely action
Early on, it’s important to recognize barriers for what they are and to not give in to them. Consider three examples.
Barrier 1: Hopefulness and reluctance to make painful decisions
“Hope is not a strategy,” said Bonaviri. “Often management or boards are slow to act because their strategy is based on hope, e.g., ‘Volumes will return’ or ‘COVID is a blip.’ You must prepare for undesirable scenarios.” In the same vein, resist hesitation about painful decisions — those with lasting impact and/or upsetting to certain constituencies. Maintain your resolve, knowing that any decision will cause some upset. This is where preparation is key. The earlier you can identify how your organization will react in certain scenarios, the more comfort you will have in following through with a decision.
Barrier 2: Lack of stakeholder buy-in
If you have been holding out hope, hesitating to discuss reality and plan for scenarios, and then are forced to act, you’ll catch constituents off guard. Transparency in a crisis is even more important than during business as usual. Use the time immediately after discovering Safety Zone peril to partner and communicate to earn buy-in from key constituents. Keep stakeholders informed and engaged by socializing plans before implementing them. Change can be hard but is easier if stakeholders are prepared ahead of time and know that you have been thoughtful in your approach and decision-making process.
When assessing your market position, take your stakeholders into account. As you make critical strategic decisions, consider the impact on and the reaction of these stakeholders. In most instances, it’s vital to generate alignment or buy-in from various constituents prior to making a final decision and acting upon it. Management, the board and others will likely optimize success by being transparent, communicating with and listening to various perspectives. The stakeholder map graphic provides an illustrative list of certain stakeholders whose views should be considered prior to implementing any decisions. This list may not be comprehensive. Before taking any action, we recommend identifying which stakeholders may be most impacted. Understand what is most important to key stakeholders and which stakeholders have influence over others. With this perspective, you can design a plan that can meet the highest priorities of key stakeholders from whom you may need to ask concessions. You can also identify key hurdles that may need to be overcome, as well as avoid unintended consequences. This enhanced level of thoughtfulness and communication — understanding their perspectives and discussing them as appropriate — will improve stakeholder buy-in and optimize outcomes.